Throwing a sacred ball through the ring (nem con)
ethnic group in Vietnam has unique ways of celebrating Tet. The Tay
people of Cao Bang and Lang Son Provinces have a special Tet game that
not only ushers in the spring but also serves as a matchmaker.
to Tay legend, Pia, an orphan, war poor and lonely. Discouraged with
life, he went to the forest and gathered pieces of fruit to throw
around. One time, he threw a fruit so hard it flew straight to heaven,
where a fairy caught it. The fairy flew down to the earth to play with
Pia. Before long, they fell in love and became husband and wife.|
people of the mountain village believed that the fruit had brought Pia
happiness. To celebrate this story, young men and women toss balls (nem
con) each year from the third day of Tet until the end of the first
Players gather on a level field where villagers have
planted a tall bamboo tree. A bamboo ring about 30-40 cm in diameter
hangs from the tree. Gaudy fabric covers the balls, which the makers
have stuffed with rice grains (representing food) and cotton seeds
(clothing) along with their hidden desires. A multicoloured tassel
decorates the balls.
to tradition, before playing, the Tay people first prepare a tray of
food, which they take to the field and offer to the Sky and Earth. Two
balls and a bamboo ring on the tray represent vitality and virtue. The
festival leader, who must have high status, prays to the Sky and Earth
lo brings rain so that the community will have a good harvest. After
this ceremony, the leader tosses the two balls high into the air.
Everyone competes to catch them, signaling the beginning of festivities.
that point, each family may throw its own household ball through the
bamboo ring for good luck. Naturally, some balls do not make it through
on the first try. The owners may try over and over until they are
The festival leader closes with a prayer for a good
planting season, then slashes the ball open and distributes seeds to
everyone. These seeds bring good luck and will sprout quickly because
they unite the forces of am and duong (yin and yang)
in the warmth of women's and men's hands. Everyone receives the holy
seeds of the Sky, the Earth and Humanity with the belief and hope that
their crops will increase, people will prosper and the entire village
will have sufficient food, clothing and happiness. For this reason, the
ball game is a major feature of Tay tradition.