Nguyen Dan (Tet Festival)
Tet Nguyen Dan (or Tet) festival originated in Vietnam. This festival
starts on the first day of the first lunar month, and of the first
season. The history of the Tet festival began long, long ago when
man and the devil lived together on earth. The devil soon tricked
man, and took over the earth. Buddha then made a deal with the devil.
The devil lost the deal and was chased to the sea. The devil prayed
to Buddha so that they may return to the land to visit their ancestor's
tomb for 3 days.
reason the Vietnamese savour this holiday is because it the longest
time for rest, parties and tradition. During the week before Tet
some families visit their ancestor's graves and pay their respects,
and burn incense to welcome the spirits back to the family home.
Before the New Year 's Eve new items and clothes are bought and
old bills are paid. Traditionally people believe that not paying
outstanding bills could bring bad luck for the new year, while buying
new clothes would make it possible for their families to be able
to afford new clothes in the coming year. Small changes can be given
to children or elderly people as a way to express the guests' wishes
of happiness and prosperity.
Throughout the Festival relatives and friends visit each other.
The first visit on the first day of the new year is viewed by many
as the most significant. Because the hosts believe that the guests'
characters or achievements would be 'expanded' to theirs. Hence,
people even negotiate before the New Year's Eve who should visit
who. The 'expected visitors' often arrive early enough to ensure
that the 'game' is played as planed. If you are not sure of who
your host expects, just hold back and wait until afternoon or later
for someone to arrive first.
Among many special dishes prepared for Tet Nguyen Dan there is the
sticky rice cakes that the Vietnamese savour. The Vietnamese sticky
rice cake has existed as long as the country herself.
has it that emperor Hung-Vuong of the Van Lang kingdom had many
sons. Some pursued literary careers. Others excelled in martial
arts. The youngest prince named Tiet - Lieu, however, loved
neither. Instead, he and his wife and their children chose the
countryside where they farmed the land.
day, toward the end of the year, the emperor met with all
his sons. He told them whoever brought him the most special
and unusual food would be made the new emperor. Almost immediately,
the princes left for their homes and started looking for the
most delicious food to offer the emperor. Some went hunting
in the forests and brought home birds and animals which they
prepared into the most palatable dishes. Some others sailed
out to the open sea, trying to catch fish, lobsters and other
much loved sea food. Neither the rough sea nor the violent
weather could stop them from looking for the best gifts to
please the emperor.
Play during the Tet Festival
his search, Tiet-Lieu went back to the countryside. He saw that
the rice in his paddy fields was ripe and ready to be harvested,
Walking by a glutinous rice field, he picked some golden grains
on a long stalk. He brought them close to his nose and he could
smell a delicate aroma.
His entire family then set out to harvest the rice, Tiet-Lieu himself
ground the glutinous rice grains into fine flour. His wife mixed
it with water into a soft paste. His children helped by building
a fire and wrapping the cakes with leaves. In no time, they finished,
and in front of them lay two kinds of cakes: one was round and the
other was square in shape.
The round cake was made with glutinous rice dough and was called
"banh day" by Tiet-Lieu. He named the square shaped cake
"banh chung" which he made with rice, green beans wrapped
in leaves. Everybody was extremely happy with the new kind of cakes.
On the first day of Spring, the princes took the gifts of their
labor and love to the emperor. One carried a delicious dish of steamed
fish and mushrooms. Another brought with him a roasted peacock and
some lobsters. All the food was beautifully cooked.
When it was Tiet-Lieu's turn to present his gifts, he carried the
"banh chung" and his wife carried the "banh day"
to the emperor. Seeing Tiet-Lieu's simple offerings, other princes
sneered at them. But after tasting all the food brought to court
by his sons, the emperor decided that the first prize should be
awarded to Tiet-Lieu.
The emperor then said that his youngest son's gifts were not only
the purest, but also the most meaningful because Tiet-Lieu had used
nothing except rice which was the basic foodstuff of the people
to make them. The emperor gave up the throne and make Tiet-Lieu
the new emperor. All the other princes bowed to show respect and
congratulated the new emperor.
Huong Pagoda Festival
Without doubt the Festival is the most famous Buddhist pilgrimage
site in northern Vietnam. Simply because in the festival, people
can beseech wishes and have chances of admiring the wonderful scenery
of the Huong Pagoda. The festival is opened in My Duc district,
northern Ha Tay province, on January 29, the sixth day of the first
Huong Pagoda Festival allows pilgrims to sightsee pagodas, temples
and caves as well as ceremonies to beseech favours from Buddha.
The Festival officially starts on February 15 (lunar year), but
the Pagoda has been lively with a big number of visitors from January
15 to mid-March. Ben Duc, the river gate to the Pagoda, is crowded
with boats and people. As a rule, pilgrims and visitors from all
parts of the country, whether acquainted to one another or otherwise,
greet everyone by saying "A Di Da Phat". These words mean,
"We beg Lord Buddha to give us health and luck".
festival, lasting through three spring months, attracts hundreds
of thousands of Buddhist pilgrims and tourists from all parts of
the country and overseas Vietnamese. Visitors come to enjoy the
breathtaking beauty of the Huong Son lime mountains at the time
apricot forests are blossoming and to pay their tribute to Avalokitasvara,
one of Buddha's disciples.
has it that a princess by the name of Dieu Thien incarnated
Avalokitasvara and attained Enlightenment there. As the princess
was born on the 19th day of the second lunar month, that date
is now observed by all Buddhists of Vietnam as the Buddhist
Saint Day besides Buddha's birthday on the 8th day of the fourth
month. The shrine in which she had practiced her religion was
discovered in the 15th century by three monks.
However, it was not until 1687 when the Superior Bonze Tran
Dao Vien Quang came here that Huong Son (Perfume Mountain) was
transformed into a major Buddhist sanctuary and the greatest
worshipping place of all Buddhists in Vietnam. The Vietnamese
believe that Huong Son is Buddha's Heaven. People conduct a
dragon dance in the yard of Trinh Pagoda, and sail the royal
barge on the 6th day of the 1st month.
festival begins formally by what is called the ceremony to 'open
the forest' at the Ngu Nhac temple, the first stop on the road leading
to the main pagoda which lies on a high mountain. Although one may
use a land road to reach the main pagoda, most pilgrims today prefer
a boat trip along the stream meandering between two rows of mountains
to contemplate the beauty of the scenery which can hardly be found
anywhere else. Archaeologists have found in several caves on the
Huong Son mountain range indisputable evidences of the presence
of early man.
fairylike scenery of Huong Son has been a source of inexhaustible
inspiration for many poets, writers and composers. Chu Manh Trinh,
a well-known poet in the 19th century, wrote:
"Under the sky is the landscape of Buddha,
The joy of visiting Huong Son is the dream for everyone
Look! The mountains, the water, the clouds,
People wonder, is here the land of fairies?"
festival is held in three places, Huong Tich, Tuyet Son, and Long
Van. It becomes most crowded from the 15th - 20th day of the 2nd
month in lunar calendar as this period marks the main festival.
The path leading from Ngoai Pagoda to Trong Pagoda is usually full
of visitors coming up and down the mountain.
Thu Festival (Tet Trung Thu)
Tet Trung Thu, as it is known in Vietnam, or the Mid-Autumn Moon
Festival as Westerners refer to it in Europe or America, is a wonderful,
ancient festival that revolves around children.
Festival dates back as far as 15-20,000 years ago in Southeast Asia,
and is traditionally held on the 15th day of the 8th Lunar Month.
This year, the date of the Festival is September 2, the same day
as the full moon. The Mid-Autumn Moon Festival is one of the two
most popular festivals in Vietnam, and has been important to families
in Vietnam for many years.
It is said that originally, the Festival came about as a way for
parents to make up for lost time with their children after harvest
season. The harvest was done by September, (August in the Lunar
calendar) and the parents were anxious to spend time with their
children and do something special with them, as well as celebrate
the harvest, after spending much time working hard and away from
the family. It was held under the full moon, which represents fullness
and prosperity of life.
favourite folklore on Tet Trung Thu is about a carp that wanted
to become a dragon. The carp worked and worked and eventually
transformed itself into a dragon. This is the story behind
the mythical symbol, Ca hoa Rong. Parents use this story to
encourage their children to work hard so that they can become
whatever they want to be.
also a story about how the Moon Lady ascended to the moon.
A man named Chu Cuoi found a lucky tree that had special healing
powers. Because this tree was sacred, people were forbidden
to urinate at the foot of this tree. Unfortunately, Chu Cuoi's
wife, Mrs Hang forgot the rule and urinated on the tree. On
day, while she was sitting on the tree's branch, the tree
started to grow and grow. Eventually, it reached the moon.
Since then, Chi Hang lived on the moon for the rest of her
life as a punishment for desecrating the sacred tree.
festival is very much like a combination of Western Halloween and
Thanksgiving. Children parade on the streets, while singing and
carrying colourful lanterns of different sizes. Some of the popular
shapes include fishes, stars, butterflies and a lantern that spins
when a candle is inserted, representing the earth circling the sun.
Dances are also traditional, and include the dragon dance and the
It is customary to give Banh Trung Thu, boxes of moon cakes, which
are traditionally very rich in taste. The cakes are filled with
lotus seeds, ground beans and orange peels and have a bright yoke
in the center to represent the moon.
Today, the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, as well as encouraging affection
for children, promotes education, poetry, dance and arts.