Sapa is known as a highland town which is famous for the naturally breathtaking landscapes and the unique traditional customs. Today, we will become a tour guide to take you to Sapa and find out one of the most cultural characteristics of Hmong people, which is pulling wife or “wife catching”.
The reason of pulling wife custom of Hmong people
Pulling wife has long been considered as a specific culture of the Hmong people in marriage. The boys will find the girl who they love and drag her to his house to become his wife. It is said that the pulling wife is an effective solution for many couples who cannot get married because the girl’s parents do not agree or the boy does not have enough money for their wedding.
The pulling wife process
Pulling wife is usually taken place in spring when the weather is mild and things reproduce. When a Hmong people fall in love, they will arrange to have a date in a particular place such as in the forest, on the road or in a market place. In the designated day, the boy secretly asks some of his friends and relatives to go to the dating place and they drag his girlfriend to his house and keep her in three days. The more friends that take part in this event and the more determinedly they drag the young girl, the happier the couple will be, the longer they will live, the more children they will have and the richer they will be. Although the girl is aware of the custom, she must still act surprised and cry out for help. The Hmong believe that it is bad if the girl does not cry out when being pulled.
Before the young couple enters the groom’s house, the father performs a blessing ritual involving the chicken to ask the ancestors for accepting her into their house. They will prepare two chickens, one male and one female, then the head of the household moves the chicken in a circular motion around the young couple’s head. After that the girl will be brought inside the house and is not allowed to visit anyone in her parent’s house for three days after this. The girl will sleep with the boy’s sisters for the first three nights. The boy’s family will send someone to go to the girl’s family and tell them that the girl has been stolen by their family so she is now married. The boy must give the bride’s family silver, coins, pigs, chicken and rice wine for the wedding ceremony. If the boy does not have a dowry to give the bride’s family, he must live in her house until he has enough money to marry her.
After keeping the girl for three days or more, the parents of the groom prepare the first wedding feast before the couple returns to the house of the bride. The groom and the bride must wear the traditional clothes in this first wedding feast. The bride will be given farewell presents and new clothes by her parents. The second wedding feast will be held at the bride’s house. More interestingly, the bride’s family members will say a couple of words to him and offer drinks to the groom until he can no longer drink. In generally, the groom would never leave without being drunk. After finishing the wedding feast at the bride’s house, they return the groom’s house and hold another party to thank the groomsman who helps the groom for catching wife.
However, when returning to her parent’s house, if the girl cries and tell them that she does not like the boy’s house, then the marriage is cancelled. They together drink a bowl of rice whisky and things remain as they were.