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Like other traditional festivals, Lim Festival includes solemn ceremonies that glorify gods and goddesses such as parades and worshiping ceremonies, as well as entertaining games and talent competitions. Early morning of the 13th of January is the time to carry the sacred canon from Trũng Temple to Hồng Ân Temple, and after the ceremony has been performed, the crowd carries sacred water back from Hồng Ân Temple to Trũng Temple. That ends the worshiping part and begins the festival.
Those who participate in Lim Festival always want to watch, listen and sing “Quan Họ” (folk music) with their dear fellow villagers, and that is the most unique aspect of this Festival.
“Quan Họ” is a special type of folk music of Bắc Ninh (formerly Kinh Bắc). Quan Họ folksongs became famous not just for their romantic lyrics describing passionate love for life and love between men and women, or their 200 charming musical tunes, but also for a few special aspects not found in other types of folksongs from other regions. From their verbal communication to their daily gestures during the Festival, Quan Họ people are always decent and humble. The custom of befriending between Quan Họ villages or between Quan Họ groups manifests the virtuous way of life. Quan Họ people refer to themselves as Little Brother or Sister, and address others as Big Brother or Big Sister. To Quan Họ people, when receiving a guest, they express themselves as follows:
It’s a rare occasion that a guest visits my house
I’ll stoke ember, and fan the fire to make some tea.
This tea is so fragrant, dear guest
Please drink up a cup to please me.
And when the guest takes his leave, the farewell seems interminable, since the song always tries to slow the guest down:
My friend, please stay, don’t go…
Quan Họ Singing Festival is always combined with the Temple Festival. As a result, temples become the meeting place as well as temporary residence for visitors. There are 49 Quan Họ villages, located in four counties in the south of Bắc Ninh province. When mentioning Quan Họ, people always think of Lim Festival. Lim is the nickname of the ancient Lũng Giang hamlet. The Festival is organized on the hill where the Lim Temple (Hồng Ân Pagoda) is located. Lim Festival is the most popular and gathers the largest crowd of participants. It begins on the 13th day of January of the lunar calendar, which happens to be right on the day of the new year Lim fair.
While attending Lim Festival, visitors can watch and listen to singing voices up the hills, behind the temple, on the boats and in houses; there is also singing coming from opposite sides, where participants are of the opposite sex (a male couple or a female couple), or male versus female groups. Pilgrims at Lim Festival can also join different cultural activities and local traditional games such as swinging, cock-fighting, bird-fighting, human wrestling, Vietnamese card playing… all of these things are part of the Lim heritage.