Nghinh Ong (Whale Worshiping) Festival at Song Doc
Nghinh Ong festival is the largest traditional festival in Ca Mau and is listed as one of 60 typical festivals in Vietnam. Nghinh Ong festival at Song Doc is associated with popular beliefs and Ca Ong temple in Song Doc town, Tran Van Thoi district, Ca Mau province. According to the elders in the region, Nghinh Ong festival appeared at around the last nineteenth century and the early twentieth century. Ca Ong (Whale) temple here was given honor title of “Nam Hai Dai Tuong Quan” (His Excellency the Marshal of the Southern Sea) by the Nguyen Dynasty. “Nghinh” means worshiping; “Ong” is Ong fish – the whale, which is always considered as a moral support of every sea journey.
Photo: Thanh Dung
Nghinh Ong festival is held for 3 days, from January 14 to February 16 in the lunar calendar, the 15th is a main ceremony day. The main ceremony starts from 02:00 p.m. The master of ceremony is old men in ready-to-wear turban, tunic and white trousers and the Steering Committee, who solemnly offers incense burner (“long dinh”) on sedan carried by 8 servants. Nghinh Ong worshiping ceremony is conducted in accordance with the great ceremonial rituals with unicorn drum team, five-color flag, weapons team (spear, sword, lance), tray dancers formally wearing ceremonial dresses in two long lines, going from the central chamber to the yard.
To prepare the worshiping of Ong Nghinh, hundreds of fishing boats of fishermen inside and outside the province are decorated with flags and flowers and arranged orderly in the river, the master directly carries incense burner to the ship. This ship selected by Lang Ong and fisherman is decorated carefully, splendidly and is the largest (connected from three ships). At the sea gate, hundreds, thousands of ships of different sizes, capacity and decoration style create colorful scenery enlivening a vast sea. During the parade, Ong phun nuoc (Ong doi) is met, the ships shall return immediately. If Ong phun nuoc (Ong doi) is not met, the ships shall continue to go out to sea and then the master prays and reads prayers. At one or two miles from mainland, the master shall “xin keo”. “Xin keo” is successful means the whales is met and picked up. At the Mausoleum, rituals, the rituals will continue until midnight.
Nghinh Ong festival at Song Doc is a whale festival of fishers: praying for good weather, luckiness, prosperity, peace and high output, etc. The festival is held solemnly and attracts thousands of people inside and outside the province.