Celebration of Vu Lan Festival in the 7th Lunar Month Among Vietnamese People

In Vietnam, the 7th full moon festival is called “Vu Lan bao hieu” (Parents' Day) or “Xa toi vong nhan” (Wandering Soul’s Day). This is the second largest annual traditional festival in Vietnam after the lunar New Year (Tet) festival, and is celebrated by Vietnamese people through various religious rituals.

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Vu Lan Festival of Vietnamese people - 7th Lunar Month
Worshippers offer prayers to their ancestors and to Buddha. Photo: travelvietnam

Exploring the History & Significance of Vu Lan Festival

The Ram Thang Bay, also known as the Hungry Ghost Festival or Ullambana Festival (Vu Lan), is a significant traditional Buddhist event celebrated on the 14th to 15th day of the seventh lunar month in Vietnam.

Vietnam’s second most significant event of the year, after Tet holiday, is a time to express gratitude and honor parents and ancestors. It is also an opportunity to remember and acknowledge the “wandering souls” or “forsaken spirits”.

According to VNN, many devotees in southern Vietnam have adopted the tradition of pinning red or white roses onto their clothing as an expression of sincerity and respect towards their parents during Buddhist occasions. This practice, which originated approximately 40 years ago, has since become a customary tradition during the Ullambana Festival.

Accordingly, individuals who have lost their parents wear a white rose as a symbol of their grief and nostalgia for the deceased. In contrast, those with living parents wear a red rose as a reminder of their duty to respect and bring happiness to their parents as their offspring.

Worshipers at Phổ Quang Temple in Saigon are given either a red of white rose before joining festivities. The red one is for those who have a mother, and the white one is for those without. Photo: saigoneer
Worshipers at Pho Quang Temple in Saigon are given either a red of white rose before joining festivities. The red one is for those who have a mother, and the white one is for those without. Photo: saigoneer

The Full Moon Day of the Lunar Seventh Month, falling on August 15th this year, holds significant cultural significance in Vietnam. It is marked as a time when the Vietnamese people adhere to a long-standing traditional belief that the gates of hell temporarily open from the 1st to 14th of the month, allowing hungry spirits to roam freely before retreating back to the infernal realms on the 15th.

Buddhist followers and Vietnamese families commonly observe the tradition of offering vegetarian meals consisting of congee, salt, rice, and more. Additionally, they perform the ritual of burning votive personal belongings and money to provide nourishment for destitute spirits or to assist lost souls in finding their way back home.

This form of worship is intended to ward off misfortune and promote harmony among all members of the family.

Vu Lan Festival of Vietnamese people - 7th Lunar Month
People flock to pagodas to celebrate the 7th full-moon festival. Photo: VOV

Exploring the Traditions of Vietnam’s Vu Lan Festival and What to Do

In contemporary Vietnam, the Vu Lan Festival is a significant occasion that welcomes individuals from all religious backgrounds. It serves as a day to honor both parents and ancestors, fostering a strong sense of community and providing an opportunity for families to come together and enjoy one another’s company.

According to a source, Vietnamisawesome, individuals in Vietnam who adhere to more traditional methods of celebration engage in various rituals within their homes, pagodas, and ancestral cemeteries.

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During the morning of the seventh lunar month festival, a splendid tray filled with an assortment of fruits, snacks, and dishes is elegantly placed on the family’s ancestral altar in the comfort of their home. Incense is delicately ignited to cordially welcome ancestors back to join the festivities with the family. The living members of the family convene to engage in prayers and partake in a communal lunch, typically consisting of vegetarian delicacies.

A sample tray to welcome ancestors back home. Photo: vietnamisawesome
A sample tray to welcome ancestors back home. Photo: vietnamisawesome

Exploring Kyoto’s Pagodas – A National Treasure Awaits

During the Vu Lan Festival, numerous pagodas across the nation bustle with fervent activity as Buddhist monks, nuns, and devotees assemble to partake in prayers. Noteworthy places of worship to explore in Ho Chi Minh City encompass Dieu Phap, Hoang Phap, and Vinh Nghiem.

The temples frequently hold a ceremonial event called the “rose on the shirt” for their visitors. During this ceremony, individuals are given the choice to wear either a red or white rose. The red rose is worn as a symbol of a living mother, while the white rose signifies a deceased mother. This tradition has fostered a sense of love and connection within the community, with the rose flower serving as a powerful emblem.

In addition to prayers, the Vietnamese people express their gratitude by making offerings to their ancestors. These offerings typically include flowers, fruits, joss paper, sticky rice cakes, and snacks. It is also common for individuals to offer fake banknotes and paper models of luxury items, such as clothing, bags, air conditioners, villas, and cars, in the belief that their departed loved ones will be able to enjoy these items in the afterlife.

The monks at our establishment frequently present lectures to our esteemed visitors, offering valuable advice on fulfilling their duties as children towards their parents. They provide insightful guidance on showing utmost respect to parents, emphasizing the importance of this devotion regardless of whether the parents are currently living or have departed.

Rise in Cemetery Visits as People Look to Pay Their Respects

During the Vu Lan Festival, many individuals also seize the opportunity to pay tribute to their ancestors by visiting their graves. This reverential act involves meticulously cleaning and maintaining the graves, accompanied by prayers and offerings to honor the departed.

Bring flowers to vidit grave. Photo: Getty Images
Bring flowers to visit grave. Photo: Getty Images

Exploring Vietnamese Traditions for the 7th Full Moon Day

According to Vietnamese belief, there are certain customs and rules that individuals must adhere to during the 7th full-moon day of the year in order to avoid bad luck, as reported by Hanoitimes.

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To enhance the aesthetics of your bedroom, hanging wind chimes above the bed is a popular choice. However, it is worth noting that some believe this may attract unwanted attention from spirits, potentially disrupting your sleep experience.

2. Enjoy the nightlife.

According to popular belief, removing leg hair, either by shaving or plucking, may help reduce the chance of being followed by ghosts.

Please be advised to exercise proper caution and mindfulness when burning votive paper and money.

It is advisable to hang wet clothes at night, as they may inadvertently attract supernatural entities.

In some cultures, it is believed that calling people’s names at night brings bad luck. Therefore, it is advisable to refrain from calling out someone’s name during nighttime.

Please find a secluded spot near the banyan trees, where the malevolent energy resides.

Collect loose change found on the streets as it could potentially be an offering left for wandering souls.

Photo: vietnam.travel
Photo: vietnam.travel

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Please join us for a worship service either at home or at the pagoda.




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Eat a plant-based diet to promote a healthier lifestyle.

Engage in philanthropic efforts and support individuals in need through charitable work.

It is advisable to avoid getting involved in any conflicts or disagreements.

Celebrating Vu Lan Festival During the Covid-19 Pandemic

The Vietnam Buddhist Sangha has made a request to the provincial Buddhist Sanghas, Buddhist dignitaries, followers, and pagodas across the country to observe the Vu Lan Festival and conduct virtual requiem ceremonies for the deceased through online applications.

Accordingly, the festival is planned to take place on August 22nd this year, which coincides with the 15th day of the seventh lunar month. In light of the current Covid-19 pandemic, it is essential for Buddhist adherents to observe the festival within the confines of their own homes, refraining from participating in large gatherings. This precautionary measure aims to curb the spread of the virus and safeguard the well-being of the community.

Photo: VOV
Photo: VOV

The Vietnam Buddhist Academy in Hanoi will be hosting an online ceremony this year to commemorate the Vu Lan Festival. This significant event is expected to gather 500 monks and nuns from across the country. The news was reported by VOV.

The ceremony will be live streamed on the Facebook page of the Vietnam Buddhist Academy, and will also be available for replay on the website khuongviet.vn. Additionally, the recording of the ceremony will be uploaded to various YouTube channels.