Every year Whale festival is organized at the mausoleum of the water general, Hung Thanh Hamlet, Can Thanh Commune, Can Gio District, Ho Chi Minh City from the 15th to the 17th of August on the lunar calendar. A whale is a fish kind having a big shape. The biggest one has the weight of 3,000 kg. When meeting big wave and big wind, they usually hide beneath ships and boats and push them to a bank. The fishers of the seashore region from Quang Binh Province to South Viet Nam including Phu Quoc Island think that the whales save them from sea accidence. They believe all whales are a god, call them Lord (Ong in Vietnamese) and establish temples to worship Lord. In Nguyen Dynasty, King Tu Duc conferred the whale Nam Hai Tuong Quan (The general in Nam Hai Sea).
Whale Festival is the festival worshiping Nam Hai Tuong Quan. It aims to show the gratitude of the fishers to Lord and pray for advantageous weather and catching many shrimps and fish. The festival happens as follows:
– On 15/8 on the lunar calendar, many art and port activities outside the mausoleum happen excitingly. At night, people lay tables in front of their houses to prepare for welcoming Lord Nam Hai on the day after.
– On 16/8 morning, the ceremony welcoming Lord from the sea back the mausoleum of the water general. The ceremony is organized according to the traditional way. First, Lord’s palanquin is welcomed by hundreds of boat decorated brightly flowers and flags. Then the parade continues to go throughout streets with lion and dragon teams and the resounding sound.
– On 17/8 morning, the major ceremony happens. The fishers offer offerings, especially roasted pigs, fresh pigs, sticky rice. People in the area gather to burn incenses praying for health and happiness in the year.
Besides ceremony part, in the festival days, there are many art and sports activities such as ancient opera performing, tug of war in water, fish catching competing. Whale Festival occurs both solemnly and excitingly. It shows the spirit “when you drink water, remember the source.” and the wish having a peaceful and comfortable life of the people of sea region.
Whale Festival in Can Gio, Ho Chi Minh City is one of the famous traditional folk festivals in Southeastern Vietnam. If you have a chance to travel to Ho Chi Minh City on mix-August, do not forget this festival.