‘Lucky ball’ festival in northern Việt Nam gets chaotically competitive

Chaos erupted at a festival in northern Việt Nam’s Phú Thọ Province on Thursday as thousands fought to grab hold of bamboo balls believed to bring year-round good luck.

Each year, on the 13th day of the first lunar month, young men in Hiền Quan Commune, Tam Nông District in Phú Thọ gather on a local open field to celebrate a springtime festival called ‘Phết Hiền Quan’.

The annual event has been celebrated for decades to commemorate Thiều Hoa, a female general who helped the Trưng Sisters, two iconic Vietnamese heroines, fight against northern invaders in 40 AD.

The lucky balls, called ‘phết,’ are made from bamboo trees and covered with polished red paint, measuring between six and seven centimeters in diameter.

A total of nine balls, including six ‘phết’ and three ‘chúi,’ similar to ‘phết’ but smaller, are brought to an open field and buried underground, and whoever can manage to steal one of the balls is said to be blessed with fortune for the rest of the year.

Lội ao, đè đầu, vung gậy... giành phết cầu may

A ‘spiritual minister’ in red costume, surrounded by security guards, brings the lucky balls to an open field

This year, to avoid complete disorder, only 100 men were selected by the festival organizers who divided the group into two opposing teams tasked with finding and bringing the lucky balls back to their team’s finish line.

However, the new, chaos-proof idea quickly fell through, and thousands of local young men rushed to the open field searching for the ball within minutes after the game began, resulting in violence and catastrophe.

The 100 security guards hired to maintain order at the festival were outnumbered and could do little to stop the ball-hungry men, who were unapologetically determined to bring home some luck.

Photojournalist Nguyễn Khanh was there to capture the chaos at ‘Phết Hien Quan’ festival in Tam Nông District, Phú Thọ Province February 9, 2017.

Chaos begins…

Lội ao, đè đầu, vung gậy... giành phết cầu may

A young men runs over people’s shoulders to approach the lucky balls

Lội ao, đè đầu, vung gậy... giành phết cầu may

Thousands of young men scramble for the lucky balls

Lội ao, đè đầu, vung gậy... giành phết cầu may

Men cross a muddy pond to approach the lucky balls

Lội ao, đè đầu, vung gậy... giành phết cầu may

A man tries to climb over the others

Lội ao, đè đầu, vung gậy... giành phết cầu may

Thousands of young men scramble for the lucky balls

Lội ao, đè đầu, vung gậy... giành phết cầu may

A men threatens others with a bamboo stick if they don’t move aside

Lội ao, đè đầu, vung gậy... giành phết cầu may

The fight for lucky balls is taken to a nearby pond

Lội ao, đè đầu, vung gậy... giành phết cầu may

The fight for lucky balls is taken to a nearby pond

Lội ao, đè đầu, vung gậy... giành phết cầu may

A ‘phết’ is won

Lội ao, đè đầu, vung gậy... giành phết cầu may

A motorbike is pushed over during the chaos

Lội ao, đè đầu, vung gậy... giành phết cầu may

A man lies on the ground to catch his breath after the tedious fight

Source: Tuổi Trẻ News

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