Vu Lan, known as Ghost Festival or Wandering Souls Day, is an important day in spiritual life of Vietnamese people. So it is annually held on 15th July of the lunar calendar. After the Lunar New Year (Tet Holiday), this is the second largest annual traditional festival in Vietnam. Because people celebrate this day to pay special tribute to parents and ancestors. Therefore Travel Sense Asia would like to share with you some information about Vu Lan Festival in Vietnam.
1. Legend of the festival
The origin of Vu Lan Festival came from the legend of Muc Kien Lien, one of the Buddha’s ten principal disciples. According to that the mother of Muc Kien Lien has commited many crimes in her previous life. So after died she had been suffered from hell’s tortures and became a starving ghost.
To save her Muc Kien Lien asked the Buddha for his help. Following Buddha’s advice, he collected a group of monks and did a pray for his mother on the 7th full moon day of the year. Thanks to the piety of Muc Lien Lien and pray of the monks his mother was released and no longer suffered from hell’s tortures.
Since then, Vu Lan Festival has been held on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month. So this is an occasion for people to show their piety and respect to their parents, ancestors. So that the gates of hell will be opened and all the dead souls can come back to the earth and gather to their family.
2. Activities in Vu Lan Festival
Vu Lan Festival can be seen throughout the country with many different activities. Not only Buddha’s followers but all Vietnamese people will celebrate Vu Lan Festival.
On this occasion people will go to pagodas, make offerings to Buddha and the monks, pray and pay tribute to parents. They also listen to the lecture about the responsibility of children to parents from monks as well. Each Buddhist has a flower (usually rose) in front of their chest: red flower if their parents are living and white flower if their parents have passed away.
Moreover people will prepare a tray with various delicious dishes and votive as well to put on ancestral altar at home. The householder, as usual, will burn incense and invite ancestors as well as homeless souls to come and celebrate the festival with family. After that, all family’s members will gather and enjoy the meal together.
Vegetarian food is most popular on this occasion. However in the modern life it is not an obligation to have a meal together at home. Family can go to the restaurant and try vegetarian food. In Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City it is not so hard to find a vegetarian restaurants. Here are some recommendations for you:
Co Dam Restaurant – 68 Tran Hung Dao St.
Vegito – 45 Ngo Thi Nham St.
Uu Dam Chay – 55 Nguyen Du St.
Sadhu – 87 Ly Thuong Kiet St.
Ho Chi Minh City
Man Tu Vega – 201 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai St. District 1
Chay Sen Restaurant – 93-95 Pho Duc Chinh St. District 1
Metta Vegetarian – 25C Tu Xuong, District 3
Budhha – 31 Dang Tat, District 1
Although the official Vu Lan holiday is July 15th, people will celebrate for the whole month. It is called Vu Lan season. In the season, people can visit pagodas to pray every day. Many eat vegetarians for the whole of month.
They also do some volunteer works or give the poor rice, noodles, soy sauce… as well. Or release birds, fishes, help them come back to the natural environment. All of those things are to send besh wishes to their parents.
In almost provinces Vietnamese people will celebrate the festival in the same way. However in Hoi An there is a special activity. That is to light small lanterns for our loved ones and set them afloat on the Hoai River. It is supposed that light will lead the way for wandering souls.
Vu Lan Festival is not only celebrated in Vietnam but also in the countries having Buddhism such as China, Japan, Malaysia etc. It reminds people to remember the birth and parenting of the parents. Vu Lan Festival is an ideal and special event for foreign visitors when travelling to Vietnam to discover Vietnam’s culture, experience and understand more about Vietnamese values.