Van village water praying festival takes place in April of lunar calendar every year in Van village, Van Ha commune, Viet Yen, Bac Giang province. The festival is a particular of wet rice culture, which shows the desire of agricultural residents for a year of convenient raining and winding as well as an abundant harvest.
The tradition said that the two brothers Truong Hong and Truong Hat followed Trieu Quang Phuc to fight the enemy. When winning Luong enemy, they went back to Da Trach puddle and then were disturbed by demons. The two sides fought each other; the demons gave a condition that if they won, they will have big present; if they lost, they would surrender to follow the saint.
Finally, the demons were defeated, so they had to surrender Tam Giang saint here. Therefore, Van villagers open ball taking festival (or Khanh Ha festival) on that day to celebrate the victory.
Formerly, this is a sunken land, usually has flood, so in later years, in order to avoid flood, the ball taking festival are held on three days of 12, 13 and 14 of April in lunar calendar every year. The ball here represents the sun. It is taken, carried and thrown from the East to the West towards the direction of sun rise and sun set. Taking the ball means taking the sun, taking sun lights for harvest.
2 days before the festival is opened, old people open the pagoda gate to clean worshipping things, then washing saints with ginger wine. Next, the officiating priest give clothes, which means wear clothes for saints, then hold the ceremony for seat and pulling the festival flag. Outside the pagoda, some people are appointed to clean the festival area.
Especially, the ball yard has to be turned up carefully and tidied. The village appoints two young, beautiful, modest and unmarried girls to wear traditional clothes of Kinh Bac women, carry water from Cau river to pour into the ball yard. Tools for carrying water have to be curved yokes, rattan frames with two Tho Ha porcelain jars.
Ball taking festival is held according to the form: participants have to be as strong as each other. Directing the ball taking festival are those with ceremony drums and wardrums. These people have to be 50 years old or more and are appointed by the village elders.
At the regulated time, participants are taken to the festival yard. Everyone has to be barebacked and wear a loin-cloth with long dress outside. They stand in 4 vertical lines in front of the yard, back to the saint pagoda. After the ceremony, the participants can go to the higher yard, which means the main pagoda yard to drink wine. They sit in 4 lines; the two sides face each other; the feast is displayed in the middle, including fruits and wines placed in 4 trays; each tray has 4 bowls, 4 dishes. All use pointed bamboo sticks to eat. They both eat and laugh happily.
After the meal, gongs and drums are performed with three times and 9 sounds, and the ball taking festival is officially taken place.
After the game, the host village will clean the ball and hold the ceremony to thank god. The participants once again line in 4 vertical lines in front of the ball yard to thank god, then all go to Cau river to bathe. That is the end of the ball festival taking. Coming to the second and the third days, the works take place as the first day.
The ball taking festival becomes a cultural heritage of Bac Giang province, contributing to keep and uphold traditional cultural values of the locality to become a destination of many tourists.