Vu Lan Festival (or Trung Nguyen Festival) is Buddhist festival that emerged long ago in Vietnam. Every year, the festival takes place on 15th day of the seventh lunar month, celebrates the seventh full moon in the year. In Vietnamese, it is so-called “Xa toi vong nhan” festival because this is the day for the death’s souls.
In the thought of Vietnamese as well as people in many other countries sharing the same festival, on that day, gate of the hell opens and thus, souls of the dead can come back to their home and gather with family. Vietnamese considers that it’s occasion for family gathering as well as expressing love and gratitude to ancestor and parents. This is reason Vu Lan Festival is known as Mother’s day in Vietnam.
In the morning of that day, a lavish tray with various delicious dishes and votive as well is set on ancestral altar. The householder, as usual, will burn incense and invite ancestor to come back home and celebrate the festival with family. After that, all family’s members will gather and enjoy lunch together. Vegetarian food is most popular on that day.
Pagodas are crowded during the festival day because Buddhists gather for monk’s lecture. In the lecture, the monk will tell about responsibility of children to parents as well as pray for parents whether they are living or dead. 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 are dead.
In the evening, a tray filled with food is set in front of the house. The householder will incense, pray for homeless souls and wish they could rest in peace. It’s a nice liturgy that shows spirit of humanitarianism of Vietnamese people.
At night, Vietnamese hold a ceremony of releasing lighted lanterns on the river. Lanterns will follow river stream and bring their wishes with it. Vietnamese people believe that by doing that, their wishes for parents will come true. The ceremony invites wonderful scenery in which the river is sparkling and the ambiance is so holy.