Happy New Year!
And if you make good friends with every Taiwanese indigenous people, you could celebrate happy new year”s” all year round — For example, every year on the 15th day of the 11th month of the lunar calendar, it’s the new year ceremony of Kaxabu!
Kaxabu is one of the Taiwanese indigenous peoples living in Central Taiwan. Although not yet recognized by Taiwan’s central government, Kaxabu people still wield their own language and maintain their ceremonies, including muzaw a azem, the new year ceremony every 11th month.
Muzaw a Azem used to be held by the four Kaxabu communities respectively and was later stopped after the WWII when the people’s life became tougher and tougher, they could not afford to keep the ceremony.
After the arrival of the Chinese government to Taiwan, Kaxabu people started to resume the new year ceremony but changed the date to the second day of the first month of the lunar calendar to accord with Chinese people’s traditional New Year holiday so that the tribal people’s children could come home to reunite with their family, too. Not until recent years have Kaxabu people again celebrated the ceremony on the 15th day of the 11th month of the lunar calendar, when the people have started to hold the ceremony together and host it by the four different communities in turn.
So how do Kaxabu people celebrate their new year?
The 1st step: Making rice cake
“So the Southern Min Chinese immigrants started to call it ala-kué wherein ah-le means “to press” and kué is “rice cake”……”
People always prepare some food to celebrate their most important festival or ceremony, and this is no exception for Kaxabu!
Roughly three days before the new year ceremony, the people would start to make tupalis yamadu, which is a kind of sticky rice cake mixed with brown sugar powder and then wrapped up with the leaves of shell ginger.
In Taiwan, the rice cake is called ala-kué in Southern Min language. This is because they have to press the rice cake when making it, and so the Southern Min Chinese immigrants started to call it ala-kué wherein ah-le means “to press” and kué is “rice cake”.
The 2nd Step: Catching the Big Fish
“Kaxabu people think the smaller the fish a person catch, the more skilful he is……”
On the 13th day of the 11th month of the lunar calendar, the people have to catch “the Big Fish”, but, in fact, they don’t catch “big” fish but the small ones…… Why?
This is because Kaxabu people think the smaller the fish a person catch, the more skilful he is!
After catching enough fish, they will dry them in the sun or with fire. And then pack them up with leaves and hang them up under trees.
The 3rd Step: Sending the Big Fish
“The indigenous people never forget that all they receive everyday is based on the efforts and the fruits of everyone before them?”
On the New Year’s Eve, the indigenous people would put the fish that was hung under trees in baskets and go home. When running home, they call “Laso laso hiu laso hiu!” The meaning of the calling is uncertain but probably means to call to the ancestral spirits.
When they arrive home, everybody hangs the fish under the roof and starts to enjoy the New Year’s Eve with their family and friends at home, welcoming another happy new year!
In the very morning of the 1st day of the New Year, Kaxabu people start to “send the Big Fish” to their ancestors at the doorway and, from the eldest to the youngest, call:
“Hagehagezen alo a-ai matau a alau-i! Nahani pahajing matau a alau-i!”
(“Come our Ancestors to receive the Big Fish! We’re sending the Big Fish to you, come!”)
If you’ve followed our stories of the Taiwanese indigenous peoples for a while, you might have noticed that, the Ancestors have taken a very important part in the life of the people and especially in every big event, as you see how the action of sending the Big Fish to the Ancestors plays such an important role in the whole celebration of the Kaxabu New Year. Is this because the indigenous people never forget that all they receive everyday is based on the efforts and the fruits of everyone before them?
Finally, let’s watch a clip to show you a Kaxabu song the people sing during the New Year celebration: Mahatahatan, “the Song of Joy”!
Any indigenous stories to share with us?
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Photo via 《埔里四庄番-噶哈巫族》