On April 12 each year, the Dai people in South China celebrate the beginning of their New Year in a unique way. They sprinkle barrels of water at each other freely to convey their best wishes.
This custom originates from a sentimental legendary story. Long long ago, there lived a devil near where the Dai people lived. The devil committed all kinds of evil deeds to the residents. Every year he would come to the villages and force a girl to be his woman. All people were angry with him. Yet, no one could do anything to him, for the devil was very well self-protected. One year, however, the girl who had been taken as the devil's seventh woman, was so clever that she had an idea to prevent the evils. One night, she managed to please the devil and made him drunk. Then she succeeded in discovering his weakness when he was in a drowsy condition. She found out that the devil could only be subdued by twining his long hair round his neck. She called in the other six girls. They stealthily cut down some hair from the devil's head and bound his neck tightly with it. In a rush, the head fell onto the ground. But unexpectedly, the head began to emit fire so wildly that it seemed that the fire would soon become uncontrollable. The girls tried to put out the fire by sprinkling water at the head but it was useless. Then a girl accidentally touched the head. To their surprise, the fire was out. But when it was released, it started to burn again. To stop the devil from doing any harm, the girls had to hold the head in turn all the time. The holder was changed once a year on April 12. They all felt the devil's head was filthy. So when one girl was holding it, the others sprinkled water at her body, trying to wash away the filth.
To commemorate the seven brave and kindhearted girls, April 12 was set as Water Sprinkling Day by their clansmen. The festival has been celebrated by generations of people and is now becoming more popular than ever.
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