Saying ‘I love you’ with a slap on the butt

Thanh Nien News

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The men and women of the H’Mong ethnic group in Vietnam’s northern highlands slap each other’s asses as a means of courtship at spring festivals.
Single H’Mong people of all ages in the Meo Vac highlands of Ha Giang Province gather in male and female groups for traditional games during the first days of the lunar year, which fell in early February this year.
Men show off their skills through games like tug of war, playing flute or dancing while playing khen, a typical pipe instrument played by several ethnic groups, while the women sing and watch the games to choose the man they like.
When their eyes meet, a man and a woman will leave their group. The man then slaps the woman’s butt and begins to flirt. If that works, the woman then slaps his ass as a way of agreeing to be his partner.
The new couple will then choose a marriage broker and get married.
The maximum number of pairs to be formed in such gatherings is nine, according to group customs.
Old villagers said that although each H’Mong man chooses a wife in his own way, the common standards are strong, healthy and hard-working women, according to a Lao Dong newspaper report.
The villagers said that these days the group’s men and women see each other during the year and have often chosen their partner before the festival, but they wait for the games to make a public engagement.
Giang Thi Dinh and her boyfriend have been in a relationship for some time, but they only slapped each other’s butts at a festival this year, when she’d turned 18, to “officially love each other.”
Hau Minh Loi, a district official, said butt slapping is a unique H’Mong tradition from a very long time ago, but it is disappearing and is no longer practiced by several communities.
“We’ve tried to restore the tradition at spring festivals in several communes this year and will do so further in the coming years,” Loi told the newspaper.

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