Tuesday, October 6, 2009

New Year Ceremonies of LISU-2

Later that night people congregate at the village priest's house. While elders drink and sing, young people first dance around his New Year tree then go in procession from house to house throughout 'sweeping out' the bad and impure elements from the entire village.

At cockcrow the next morning, women from the village priest's house go to the water source and make offerings of joss sticks, rice cakes, and pork, then bring 'New Year water' back to the house. This 'New water', considered to be special, is used to fill the cups on the ancestral altar, and to cook offerings for the ancestors. The priest and his wife wash their faces with some of this water by their New Year tree to 'wash away the evil of the old year'.

Later that morning men from each household go to the village shrine with the priest to present offerings of rice cakes, liquor, and pork to the guardian spirit. During the offering the priest prays, '…. Like a stream, like clear water, let us have no trouble or sickness. …Let us not separate. Come receive this offering. Sha-a-a'

Each household sends later similar offerings to the priest. He arranges these on the plat form under his altar, and then prays again in the same fashion. Strings are tied to the necks of those presents, then dancing resumes. Some of the elders inside the priest's house sing songs asking for unity, good health, and other blessings for New Year

On New Year's day there is almost constant dancing around the village priest's tree. The music is provided by men playing either musical gourd pipes or lutes, the type of dancing varying according to the instrument used and the tune played. At one celebration we observed the headman and other adults started the dancing in the morning; later small children joined in. it was not until early afternoon that young women, who had spent the morning hours dressing in all their finery, came to the dance area. Towards evening the young men, also in their finest attire, joined in. The next day the site of the dancing shifted to the headman's house and continued all day.

Two or three men in the village are appointed to be 'idiots' (paka) who tease those who are not dancing to get them back into the group whenever the number drops too low. They throw dirt on people, grab their drinks, and generally carry on to make it a happy, festive occasion. During the celebration it is important for the villagers to maintain friendly relations. Quarrelling and bickering are taboo. There is much visiting with clan members and friends. Lisu used to put up a 'taboo sign' (ta leo) at the entrance of the village during the New Year celebration so no outsiders would enter. Since the 1960s the Lisu have gradually dropped this, and now visitors are no longer prohibited.

At the next dawn the village priest announces that the 'sun has risen', and the New Year celebration is over. Each family ties a piece pork and two rice cakes to its New Year tree and casts it out into the jungle, ending the festival.

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