The full moon worship
Tradition and meaningful, The ritual of ancestral worship in the lunar seventh month is an important part of the religious and cultural heritage of the Vietnamese people. The lunar seventh month is considered the month of “cúng rằm” (full moon worship) when the spirits of the deceased are allowed to return and visit their families to receive offerings from the world of the living.
During the day of ancestral worship, Vietnamese people often prepare a temporary altar in front of their house or on the street to worship the departed spirits. The offerings on the altar typically include food, fruits, beverages, paper money, and other items believed to be necessary for the afterlife.
During the ritual, families pray and remember the departed souls. They seek blessings for the souls to find peace, tranquility, and acceptance in the afterlife. At the same time, the household also hopes to receive protection and blessings from the spirits for prosperity and success in life.
In most cases, the family does not consume the offerings after the ritual. In fact, the ritual objects and food on the altar are considered sacred and have been dedicated to the spirits of the deceased. They are usually kept on the altar for a short period after the ceremony for the spirits to enjoy. After the ritual, the family usually proceeds to dispose of the offerings by placing them on bridges, lakeshores, and riverbanks, or by throwing them in the streets.
However, in certain areas, particularly in Ho Chi Minh City and among some Chinese families, some homeowners may encourage people to participate in a competitive event to snatch the offerings. They believe that vying for the offerings can bring spiritual benefits and good fortune. This can be seen as a combination of spiritual traditions and beliefs in luck, prosperity, and business success for their families. Some affluent homeowners may even give money to those participating in the competition to facilitate and encourage the competitive spirit.
During the time of ancestral worship in Vietnam (cúng cô hồn), there are certain practices that people typically engage in, as well as some things they avoid. Here are some common activities and taboos associated with this period:
- Prepare and set up an altar: Families prepare a temporary altar or shrine to honor and worship their ancestors. They decorate it with offerings such as food, fruits, incense, and other items.
- Offer prayers and incense: Family members gather around the altar to offer prayers, burn incense, and pay respects to their ancestors. They express gratitude, seek blessings, and ask for protection and guidance.
- Make offerings: The altar is adorned with various offerings, including traditional dishes, fruits, and drinks. These offerings symbolize sustenance and comfort for the spirits of the deceased.
- Perform rituals: Families may engage in specific rituals and ceremonies, recite prayers, and participate in communal activities at temples or pagodas.
- Remember and honor ancestors: This is a time for families to remember their ancestors, share stories and memories, and pass down family traditions and values to younger generations.
- Visit pagodas to make offerings, light incense, and seek spiritual guidance.
- Engage in acts of merit, such as releasing birds and fish.
- Participate in compassionate actions to alleviate suffering and generate positive karma.
- Show respect and gratitude towards ancestors through these practices.
- Seek blessings and spiritual connections by engaging in these traditional customs.
- Avoid negative activities: People are encouraged to refrain from engaging in negative or harmful behaviors during this time, such as arguing, fighting, or gossiping.
- Avoid loud or festive celebrations: The period of ancestral worship is considered a solemn and respectful time. Therefore, it is customary to avoid organizing loud parties or engaging in overly festive celebrations.
- Refrain from using sharp objects: Some believe that using sharp objects during this period may bring bad luck or harm to the family. It is advised to exercise caution and avoid activities involving sharp tools or knives.
- Limit travel and major life events: It is considered respectful to limit travel and avoid major life events, such as weddings or moving to a new house, during this period. The focus is on honoring and paying tribute to ancestors.
- Avoid consuming the offerings: The offerings placed on the altar are considered sacred and dedicated to the spirits. It is customary not to consume food or drinks after the ritual. They are either left for the spirits to enjoy or disposed of respectfully.
It is important to note, however, that not all Vietnamese families or individuals engage in this practice. This is just a specific situation that occurs in some places within Ho Chi Minh City and may not accurately reflect the traditional ancestral worship culture of the Vietnamese people nationwide.