Festival in Hoi An ancient town
Whale Worshiping Festival
For centuries, the Whale Festival in Quang Nam Province has been considered to be the biggest water festival by the fishermen living there. It has been celebrated with the hope of bringing good luck when going fishing, and it is also believed that paying respect to the Whale God will ensure safety and prosperity for the entire village.
The Whale Worshiping Festival lasts for two days and it is held in Hoi An in the second week of the lunar month of March. If a dead whale drifts to the seashore, the fishermen hold a big worshiping ceremony, sometimes even three-days long, to pay respect to the whale in return for the help it offers at sea. During the festival, "hat boi" (classical opera in South Viet Nam), with supporting orchestras, is often performed. The actors and actresses sing and act as if they are rowing a boat on the ground, to illustrate the fishermen’s activities on the river. The meaning of these dances and songs is the fishermen’s gratitude to the whale for its help at sea when the fishermen find themselves in difficulty.
On this occasion, the whale temple, as well as all the houses and boats, are beautifully decorated. The elderly people of the village bear the responsibility of offering peace in the first evening at the whale temple. Offerings, which do not contain sea food, are given while the oration is read out. At dawn the following day, there is a procession of boats on the sea in a set formation. This procession displays the sincerity of the fishermen towards their Whale God.
The Whale Festival in Quang Nam Province is so significant to the fishermen that all the fishing boats and villagers returns to take part in the celebration, irrespective of where they are at the time.