The Rice God plays an important role in spiritual and cultural lives of people in Central Highlands. In their belief, Rice God blesses people with health, good luck and an abundant harvest. Therefore, Rice Growth Festival, also known as Yo Mir among local people, is one of the most important festivals in Central Highlands in general and in Dak Nong Province in particular. It is usually held on September aiming to put an end to the taboos for forest holders, to drive away bugs and wild beasts for a lush crop, prosperous life, and happiness.
According to Ma people, an ethnic minority in Central Highlands, for plants and rice to grow and develop healthily, villagers are required to pick a forest holder who is a strong man to take care of their fields and together with village patriarch to hold agricultural festivals. To do that, the forest holder is prohibited from fat, skin of animals, and fish head. If he violates, fields are dried and rice will not have seeds. Therefore, Rice Growth Festival is an important celebration held annually. The offerings consist of a goat, a pig, a chicken, and a duck. All offerings are contributed by villagers.
Rice Growth Festival is generally held early in the morning (no date specified). The ritual starts off by the village patriarch along with the forest holder take the goat to all fields of villagers to check the growth of rice. When visiting fields, the village patriarch and the forest holder are welcomed solemnly. Households give contributed offerings to them, which are a chicken and a cup of wine. The village patriarch conducts to bleed offerings and applying their blood onto a tree. He also cuts a tuft of fur of the goat to hang it onto the tree. The tree used in the ritual is usually made of small bamboo, nearly 2 meter high and put up near the ceremonial table along with a tray of rice and egg.
After visiting all fields, the village patriarch opens the festival with a vow. His vow’s content is inviting all gods to the ritual for thanksgiving and wishing them to protect villagers, and to prevent bugs and wild beast from damaging the rice. It is believed that the soul of rice does not reside in the rice but flying about somewhere instead. In September, rice begins to grow; therefore, they have to celebrate the festival to invoke rice’s soul.
During the celebration, Gong sound is used to cheer up the festival’s atmosphere. Local people and tourists are offered with a sumptuous meal; young men and women dance together around the fire; and children are free to play games.