Hue kicks off Tet with bamboo pole-raising custom

By Le Cong Doanh, Thanh Nien News

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 The bamboo pole-raising ceremony takes place at Hue former citadel on February 1, 2016. Photo: Le Cong Doanh
Hue's cultural preservation center on Monday re-enacted the bamboo pole-raising ritual, an old custom aiming at praying for peace for the new lunar year.
The ceremony was conducted with people in traditional costumes carrying a long bamboo pole to The Mieu Temple, which worships kings of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945), the country’s last monarchy reign. 
The Nguyen Dynasty used to raise the first pole, known as cây nêu in Vietnamese, and families in the country would follow. 
According to Vietnamese legends, devils once occupied the whole land. They forced people to work on rice fields for them.
The devils set the rule that they got the top parts of all rice plants, which were the grains, while the farmers only got the roots.
The Buddha showed up to help them, telling them to switch to sweet potatoes and they could have all the edible roots.
The devils were angry. They said they would take both the top and the root parts from the next crop, leaving the farmers the middle parts.
The Buddha asked people to plant corn.
Again, the devils were so angry they forced people to leave.
The Buddha asked the farmers to try to negotiate with the devils for a piece of land the size of a shirt's shadow.
The devils agreed, thinking that such a piece of land would be too small.
So the Buddha asked people to put the shirt on the top of a bamboo pole. He then used magic to lift the pole to the sky, creating a very large shadow from the shirt.
The devils had to move out to the sea. They were only allowed to go back to the land during Tet.
That’s why people put up the poles to remind them of their boundary.
The practice of raising cây nêu has lost its popularity in modern Vietnam and only takes place at major cultural centers. Some offerings, including votive paper and wine, for heaven will be tied to the top of the pole.
The poles will be taken down on the seventh day of the new year, to let people know that the festival has ended and they can resume normal activities.
 People in old-time costumes carry the bamboo pole from Hien Nhon Gate in Hue on February 1, 2016. Photos: Le Cong Doanh
The pole is 15 meters long. 
It is carried into the main entrance to The Mieu Temple, where kings of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945), the country’s last monarchy reign, have been worshiped.
Elderly men perform rituals for the bamboo pole raising ceremony
Then they tie some offerings to the pole. 
It is raised. 
The pole will be taken down on the seventh day of the lunar new year (February 14, 2016), to let people know that Tet has ended.

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