Many people flock to the city of Taipei to watch the fireworks boom off of Taipei 101 to mark the beginning of the new year. What few may know, is the diversity of Taiwan, and the celebrations that come with it.
New Years Eve isn’t always referred to as such, because in a time before “time,” people followed the moon cycle. This time of year is known as the Hunting Rite. The Puyuma people, one of 16 recognized aboriginal tribes in Taiwan, celebrate by adorning colorful traditional clothing, beautiful flower wreathed crowns, hawks feathers for the elders and former chiefs. This time is for the men to hunt, to go into the forest a boy, and come out a man.
Starting in the early morning Puyuma families get ready. Mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles help each other and their children strap on the clothing. Different patterns, colors, and pieces of clothing for different levels of adulthood. It’s a wonderful scene. Young boys and girls getting ready, looking confident and vibrant in their attire. Older members of the family helping them get the seams just right, and out the door on time.
The men leave first. As the elders of the tribe walk to the ceremonial grounds, the young men of the village run circles around them, chanting, singing, and enjoying the hand outs from the women. Beetle nut, chocolates, and other cookies are given to the young men as they protect the elders.
A circle of deep vocal aboriginal songs ensues, with elders giving thanks and celebrating the community, the year, and congratulating those who have accomplished manhood. Afterwards a massive feast ensues and celebrations happen through the night.
Dancing, singing, love and laughter all through the night. One of the more exciting events of the Puyuma Tribe is going house to house drinking gifted rice wine and dancing and singing with the ladies of the house. You must be 18 years old and unmarried to take part in this event. If you’d like to be a spectator, just listen for the sound of bells jingling throughout the town, as the men wear them to alert the women of their arrival.
Back in the day this was a big deal, and how many people met their wife or husband of the future, and the young women really were excited for it. Now, there are so many chances to meet boys it doesn’t have the same anticipation, but there is still tons of energy and excitement in the air!
The celebrations happen until the last man calls it a night.
The Hunting Rite is held every year on the weekend of New Year’s Eve, and can be viewed from the outside. The Puyuma provide a wonderful glimpse into untarnished culture still present in the aboriginal tribes of Taiwan.