Long Dragon Banquet Festival of Hani Ethnic Group
The New Grain Dinner and the Long Dragon Banquet
The Hanis around Honghe River have a custom of having “a new grain dinner” on the first dragon day in July of the lunar calendar. On that day, according to the old custom, every family should pull up a small bundle of grain with the root and the spike from their own paddy field. They should choose those holes in odd numbers and not greet anyone on the way back, no matter acquaintances or not, otherwise it will be ominous.
On the afternoon, they rub the rice into grains with the crust and parch them in the cauldron until they become the puffed rice. Before eating the puffed rice, people should first give some to the dog, who should be thanked because, according to the ancient legend, the rice seeds the Hanis regained after a big flood were brought by a dog. After eating the rice, they also have a taste of the melons, beans and vegetables that are grown that year. People should also have a bowl of tender bamboo shoots, symbolizing that the harvest of the next year will rise as steadily as the fresh bamboo. Moreover, they should have a castrated fat chicken, in hope of having an abundant and happy life the next year.
October New year is the greatest festival for the Hanis, which lasts six days, starting from the first dragon day in every October of the lunar calendar (the same as Han’s lunar the New Year’s Day). On the very New Year’s Day, every village kills one pig together. No matter how big the pig is, the pork must be shared equally among all the families, as well as its heart, liver, lung, intestines, stomach, etc, however limited their quantities are. In the afternoon, each family will offer to the ancestors their part of pork and chitterlings. The whole family stay together during the festival, and also invite friends of other ethnic groups to join them. Happy laughter and cheerful voices are endless all day long, especially those ancient folk songs, which tell the history of the festival and their nationality and express the happiness of the harvest.
In the latter part of the New Year, every village set a fairly long banquet in the middle of the village. All the villagers enjoy it together, celebrating the traditional festival, which symbolizes harmony, concord, auspiciousness and happiness. Since the shape of the banquet seems like a long dragon, it is thus called “Long Dragon Banquet”. Also, due to its place in the center of the street, it is also named “Street Center Feast”. In a small village, the feast can be over within one afternoon, but in a large one, the village will be divided into three groups according to the families and the feast will be held in three afternoons, each group acting as the host in succession.
On the early morning of the appointed day, every family on host carry the square tables into the center of the street and lay them down one by one. About a hundred tables are put together, forming a long dragon over 100 meters. After the noon, with a call as the signal, all the families on host vie with each other in placing out their best dishes and wine on the tables. The better the food and wine are, the more dignity the family will have. Therefore many families offer very delicious food that they are reluctant to eat at normal times, such as sparrow, loach, carp, bamboo shoots, fungus, mushroom, and fat chicken, etc. There are almost as many as 20 bowls on each table, sending out fragrance, which indicates the fruits of the Hanis’ assiduous working and their traditional cooking skills, and displays the magnificence of their longest and grandest banquet. In such a lively atmosphere with a deafening sound of gongs and drums, people choose their neighbors of their own free will, in accordance with ages, interests and hobbies. When they seat themselves well, the gongs and drums are stopped, and the players, carrying gongs and drums, walk among the tables, to accept dishes and wine offered by the others. After that, a couple of girls come, as the representatives of the folks, to propose a toast to the grandmas. Women eat first, and then it is the men’s turn. The feast, lasting several hours, is overflowing with warm harmony, happiness, and endless cheerful laughter.
When the dusk falls, around piles of bright bonfire, young men and women begin to dance, accompanied by gongs and drums, sanxians (a three string instrument) and bamboo flutes. As the night deepens, people gradually leave for home, while the lovers walk instead towards the palm woods and the bamboo forest…