Ta Thi Tam
The La Hu, a Tibet-Burman language ethnic minority group, lives in the northern mountainous
Originated from a sub-group of Khuong people who originally came from Qinghai highlands in China, the La Hu, also called Co Sung, Khu Sung, Xa La Vang or Kha Quy, migrated to Vietnam in the 19th century, living in high mountain areas of Lai Chau’s Muong Te district.
While disallowing people outside their clans to live in the same family, the La Hu bans members of the same paternal family line to get married with one another within seven generations. But marriage between members of the maternal clan is accepted.
La Hu people usually get married at the age of 15-17 or even earlier. Young people are free in love and often find their partners through community activities such as new year festival, wedding or funeral. When a boy expresses his love to a girl and is accepted by her, he can sleep at the girl’s home to know her better. After the two decide to marry, the boy will ask his parents to prepare for the wedding.
The La Hu often conducts wedding rituals in the eleventh or twelfth lunar month after the harvest time and before the lunar new year festival. A La Hu wedding follows four steps: proposal ceremony, engagement ceremony, wedding ceremony and post-wedding visit to the bridal family. The dates for holding these ceremonies, which are carefully chosen by the groom’s family, must not fall on the day of tiger, the day of monkey or date of death of the groom’s grandparents or parents. On the way to the bridal family for one of the above ceremonies, if the groom’s family sees a snake or hears the howl of a deer which is believed a bad omen, it is supposed to return home and choose another date to set out. If the bad omen occurs again on the second trip, the marriage will be cancelled in the belief that the future couple will not be happy.
On a good date agreed by the two families, the boy and his parents bring dried meat of one or two squirrels and two bottles of wine to the girl’s family as the proposal offering. Arriving the girl’s home, the boy’s family is supposed to stay only at the kitchen. Without using any trays and bowls, the two families eat squirrel meat and drink wine together, discussing about the marriage for the couple. The families not using bowls while drinking wine implies that the relationship between the two families is not yet formal as from the proposal to the wedding is still a time.
This ceremony is held in the evening of a chosen date. The groom and his aunts and uncles rather than his parents and siblings go to the bride’s family, bringing with them the meat of twelve squirrels and six bottles of wine. The person who carries squirrel meat is supposed to enter the bride’s house first followed by the head of the groom’s party who must find kitchen utensils himself to cook and serve the squirrel meat to the girl’s family. The kitchen utensils are hidden by the bride’s family to test the enthusiasm and patience of the groom’s. If failing to find them, the boy’s party must borrow kitchen utensils from the bride’s neighbor to prepare the betrothal meal.
When the meal is ready, a representative of the groom’s family invites the bride’s villagers to the party while the two families discuss about the marriage. After enjoying the meal, the groom’s family inquires about the betrothal gifts. According to La Hu custom, if the groom’s family cannot afford the wedding presents exacted by the bride’s, the groom must stay at the bride’s home for several years.
An engagement ceremony often lasts two hours and must come to an end before cockcrow.
The ceremony to take the bride to her groom’s home is held in the morning. The wedding offerings include 12 kilos of pork, six liters of wine and some chilly. In addition, the groom must present silver bracelets or silver coins to the bride’s mother to show his gratitude to the mother for raising his bride.
The groom’s party, which must have at least 12 persons, will beat gongs when arriving at the bride’s home. Welcoming them, four persons from the bridal family stand at the entrance door with one carrying a tray of pork, wine and chilly for offering to the groom’s party. The two persons leading the groom’s party each must drink up three cups of wine without eating pork and negotiate wisely with the bride’s family so that the whole party can enter her home.
Entering the house, the groom’s party puts the food on the floor and invites the bride’s family and villagers to the wedding party during which people sing and dance cheerfully. After this party, the groom’s family stays at the bride’s home and will be treated another meal by the bridal family before formalities to take the bride home are conducted.
When the bride appears in La Hu traditional costume, the groom’s family must pull her from her friends for a while before leaving with her. Stepping out of her home, the bride is supposed to neither look back nor stumble. When the new couple arrives at the groom’s home, they together have to cut a thread hung across the gate before entering the house. The groom’s mother welcomes her daughter-in-law by rubbing a handful of rice onto her back in the hope that the bride will bring the family good lucks.
Welcomed by four persons of the groom’s family at the entrance door with one carrying a tray of meat and wine, each member of the bridal party is offered a cup of wine. Inside the house, the groom’s family and villagers sit around food trays. Members of the bridal party stand in a line, looking at the food tray placed in the middle of the house and each paying respect by shaking clasped hands for three times. Then the bride steps forward, kneeling down in front of the food tray in the middle, slowly lifting the front flap of her dress and kowtowing. Each time she kowtows, three or four relatives of the groom put money onto her dress as presents. The bride keeps kowtowing until nobody gives her presents. After that, the young couple and the groom’s parents have a meal together in their room while guests enjoy the wedding party outside, toasting the happiness of the couple.
Visit to the bridal family
Early morning the day after the wedding or a week later, the couple returns the bride’s home, bringing with them a chicken as a present for the bridal family. During this visit, the bride receives from her parents dowries which include jewelry, cloth, blankets and cushions.-