Tet festival ritual for Vietnam’s Hmong: bottom slapping

TAIPEI (CNA) — There are many traditional customs practiced by ethnic minority groups in Vietnam to mark the “Tet” Lunar New Year festivities, including the slapping of bottoms by the Hmong ethnic minority as a means of courtship.

In addition to the majority Kinh ethnic group, which makes up 85.4 percent of Vietnam’s population, the country has 53 ethnic minority groups, including the 1 million Hmong who live mainly in mountainous areas of northern Vietnam’s Ha Giang and Lao Cai provinces.

The Lunar New Year is a time for the Hmong people to reflect on the past year and seek out new beginnings, and is also a time for family reunions, entertainment and courtship.

In colorful, embroidered traditional Hmong attire, single Hmong people of all ages in the Meo Vac highlands of Ha Giang gather in male and female groups for traditional games during Tet, including beanbag games, tug-of-war, ball challenges and love song duets.

The most unique feature of the games is a bottom-slapping tradition to help young Hmong men and women find mates.

The young men and women play games like tug-of-war and sing, dance and play instruments, while exchanging New Year greetings. Through the games, young Hmong men send a signal through their eyes to the woman they are interested in, and if the woman sends an eye signal of her own if the feeling is reciprocated.

After their eyes meet, the man then slaps the woman’s bottom and begins to flirt. If the woman slaps the man back, this means she agrees to be his partner, and the two leave their groups.

In fact, couples do not fall in love at first sight during the ritual; they generally know each other previously and have been in love for a certain period of time.

By appearing in the bottom-slapping activity, they engage in a public display of affection and let others witness their love.

The new couple then choose a marriage broker and get married.