Local Celebrations: All You Wanted To Know About Hungry Ghost In Vietnam | Saigon Happenings
Vietnam has its share of interesting traditions and celebrations. For example, did you notice an increase in the number of altars and burning incense alongside the Saigon streets? This is because of Hungry Ghost, the lunar month in which the ghosts are visiting the land of the living. Say what?
Hungry Ghost in Vietnam: not quite like Halloween
Some compare it to Halloween, but there’s a bit more to it and it’s not only the lack of pumpkins. In Vietnam, Hungry Ghost is known as ‘the month of the lonely spirits’. Coming from ancient Chinese traditions, the Vietnamese believe that during these weeks, the gate of hell is open and the ghosts will visit the land of the living. Ancestors will find their way back to visit their families by following the offerings and prayers.
Other so-called “lost ghosts”, the souls without relatives and not guided by prayers, will wander around, lost and lonely. You can understand the energy is not too positive these days. Therefor people tend to avoid any life changing decisions like moving house or getting married. But that’s not all. It’s also advised to avoid swimming (as ghosts could be lurking in the water), taking photo’s at night (since ghosts love selfies) or hang your washed clothes outside to dry after sundown, since the ghosts can steal and curse your washed clothes if you do. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Burning money during Hungry Ghost
If you are alarmed by all the burning money or paper in the streets, don’t be. These ‘hell bank’ notes are believed to hold value in the afterlife. Many families have upgraded this practice and even burn paper versions of the latest tech inventions now- from Samsung Galaxy’s to all types of vehicles. They believe that the fire will bring the goods to the other side. So if you see a burning paper sports car, you know why.
Festival Of The Hungry Ghosts
On the 15th day of Lunar month things start to heat up. On this Day of the Full Moon, Vietnamese families will honor their ancestors with food offerings and burning paper. Many people also visit the temples. It is a festive day, full of forgiveness, but things tend to get a little crazy at the end. The Vietnamese have a tradition of throwing real money on the streets, which others have to try to ‘steal’, since this will bring luck to your household. You can just imagine the chaos.
Perhaps strange to most, the 15th day of Lunar month, also happens to be Vietnamese (Lunar) Mothers’ Day. On this Vu Lan Day, people pay homage to their parents and ancestors, living or deceased. People whose moms have passed away will wear a white flower on their shirt during the day, while others whose moms are still alive will wear a red one. If you visit a pagoda, such as the Jade Emperor Pagoda, on this day you might be offered a white or red flower to wear. This beautiful custom is largely practiced throughout Vietnam.
When to experience Hungry Ghost in Vietnam
Every seventh month of Lunar Calendar, this year from August 1-26
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