The Interesting "Water-splashing Festival"
The De'angs believe in Hinayana (a branch of Buddhism). Every year, they celebrate "Jinwa" (Close-the-Door, which means "Buddha going into the temple") and "Chuwa" (Open-the-Door, which means "Buddha coming out of the temple"). Beside these, they celebrate the Water-Splashing Festival.
Lasting three to five days, the Water-Splashing Festival of the De'ang people is usually celebrated in mid April. Before the festival, people prepare new clothes, miba (a sort of food made of rice), water dragon, and buckets and other containers. Old Buddhists gather in a temple to build a cottage and a water dragon so as to wash the dust of Sakyamuni's statue. On the morning of the day, everyone is richly dressed. They march into the temple, and hear Buddhism sermons and sing prayers. Then, they build a pagoda with sand near the temple, and carry the statue into the cottage, which is built in the temple, and perform the ritual of washing it. The Buddhists pour into the dragon the clearest water, which then flows from its mouth along a bamboo gullet and splashes all over the statue. Then, a respected old man dips a bunch of flowers into the water and then splashes the water to the crowd around. This is a blessing of the new year to everyone. Then, everyone gets excited and congratulates each other on a new year's coming. In the music of songs elephant-foot drums, young men raise a bucket of water over his head and let it drip to the hands of the old, wishing them happiness and health. The old, then, try to hold the water with their hands, and say words of blessing to the young. Then, they line up in a long queue after the elephant-foot drums and throng to waters beside the springs and rivers, celebrating the festival by singing, dancing, chasing and splashing water to each other. Water is regarded as a symbol of good luck and blessing. Splashing it as much as they like, everyone enjoys the festival.
The Water Splashing Festival is not only a festival that celebrates the New Year, but also provides a good opportunity for youngsters to court. Different from the Dai people's "throwing bags" in courting, the De'angs have a custom of presenting bamboo baskets, which is often performed by a young man who has found a lover. The young man often makes several baskets before the festival, and presents them to the girls he likes. He sends his sweetheart the prettiest basket that he has woven to show his love, and to see her response. A girl may receive several baskets, but whom does she love? It depends on whose basket she carries on the Water-splashing Day. This keeps the boys quite busy that day. They open their eyes real wide looking at all the baskets very carefully to see whether the girl is carrying their baskets. When he discovers his own, he splashes water on the girl, which is returned happily with full joy.
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