Ro Ngao tradition says firewood is key to a happy home
  • | | December 29, 2010 02:03 PM

>> Central Highlands tradition destroying precious forest

Ro Ngao ethnic minority women in the Central Highlands province of Kon Tum believe digging deep into the forest for firewood will make for a good marriage.

To make a good marriage, girls in Tu Peng Village, Po Co Commune, Dak To District seek out firewood.
The wood must have its bark removed, be 80cm long and have two pointed heads.
Y Na has a very happy life and receives much love from her in-laws as she works hard to fetch a large amount of nice firewood for them.

The tradition says that the nicer the firewood is, the more love they will receive from their husbands and in-laws.

Despite living in a mountainous area surrounded by trees, Ro Ngao people in Tu Peng Village consider firewood as an indispensable item in their family. Local has maintained this custom of ladies heading to forests to take firewood to be used as offerings at an engagement ceremony.

Village Patriarch A Hanh said firewood is very important because it expresses a woman’s love for her man. It is also believed that by looking at firewood bundles, one can also see a woman’s virtue.

It is believed that abundant and quality firewood proves skillfulness, beauty, care and respect of a girl for in-laws. This means that she is sure to get married with a strong and handsome man and share a deep love. Due to the belief, people in Tu Peng Village always pile firewood in front of their home as a way to show off.

Firewood from strong chestnut trees are believed to be the best for engagement while firewood taken from headless chestnut trees is considered a bad omen for their future marriage.

Due to these strict traditions, females often face danger for 2 to 3 years to seek firewood in forests for their future in-laws. This is the most challenging time for love between girls and boys.

Village Patriarch, A Hanh said, “In the past, girls had to take firewood alone when forests had ample trees. Any boy who helped a girl to seek firewood was punished. Now, when many forests have been destroyed, girls who have a boy-friend, must spend much time and experience more dangers to go to jungles to gather wood. They have to come to jungles for 20-30 days continuously to fetch at least 100 bundles. Girls bring all firewood to their husband’s family to wait for the wedding party.”

Y Hap, 70 years old, said, “If any girl doesn’t meet expectations, the firewood will be returned after the engagement ceremony and the wedding party will be cancelled.”

Village Patriarch, A Hanh, took us to a house which had firewood fetched by his daughter-in-law for over three years. He said with pride that, “This firewood from my daughter-in-law has not been used up in the past five years. She is very skillful and we love her very much.”

Y Na shared that she spent four years going to jungles to fetch firewood. Every day, she had to climb over hills and cross streams to reach strong chestnut trees for firewood. To appease her in-laws, she tirelessly walked thousands of kilometres to ensure a happy life.

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