Vu Lan Festival - Parents Day in Vietnam
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The image of flowers on the chest has become a familiar image in every season of Buddha's birthday
Vu Lan is not Hue's own festival, but Vu Lan is a distinction, the occasion when Hue's personality and soul are most clearly revealed.
The image of flowers on the chest has become a familiar image in every season of Buddha's birthday

In Hue, Vu Lan is the second largest festival after Buddha's Birthday, which is the day when many Hue people visit tombs and burn incense for the deceased, although not as crowded as the traditional New Year's Day but very solemn and respectful. Although Vu Lan is a Buddhist festival, for the vast majority of people in the Old Capital, whether they follow Buddhism or not, until July 15 lunar calendar everyone looks forward to this special day.


Vu Lan and Mom

The Festival of Vu Lan is officially derived from a short text of Mahayana Buddhism "Buddhist Theory of Wushu Sutra", translated by Truc Phap Ho from Sanskrit into Chinese in the Western Jin Dynasty, or about 750-801 AD and transmitted from China to Vietnam, unknown from which year.

The word Vu Lan, which is transliterated from Sanscrit: Ullambana, Han translates as “Giải đảo huyền”, means “Save parents and ancestors from suffering”.

It comes from the story of the Bodhisattva Mujian who saved his mother from the life of a hungry ghost. Vu Lan is an annual celebration dedicated to the memory of parents (and ancestors in general) - parents of this life and of previous lives.
The meaning of Vu Lan is related to the story of the Bodhisattva Mu Kien Lien, because in order to save his mother from the life of a hungry ghost, he turned to the Buddha and was taught that he had to prepare an offering, thanks to the synergy of monks throughout the ten directions on the fifteenth day of July, to be able to save his mother. Following the words of the Buddha, the mother of Mujian was liberated. The Buddha also taught that beings who want to show kindness to their parents do so. Thus was born the Vu Lan Festival.


However, in Buddhism, Vu Lan Day did not have a rose-clad ritual, but in August 8 in a text written about Mother, Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh (a Hue-born son) introduced the custom of wearing a flower on his shirt on the Japanese Mother's Day. And it was also the Zen master who introduced the image of a rose in a dress from abroad into Vietnamese Buddhism on Vu Lan day in a very natural way, from harmony to honor that simple image into pride, a cultural feature of Vietnamese people, regardless of religion or belief.

In his short account of his mother, the Zen master wrote: "Buddhism has the Avalokiteshvara, revered in its mother form. The baby opened his mouth and cried, and the mother ran to the cradle. She appeared as a gentle angel to dissipate the anguish. Christianity has the Virgin Mary, the holy virgin Mary. In Vietnamese popular belief, there is the holy mother Lieu Hanh, also in the form of a mother. Because as long as we hear of "Mother", we already see that our hearts are filled with love. But the love of faith and action is not far away.

In the West, there is no Vu Lan Day, but there is also Mother's Day on May 10th. I am a farmer and I don't know this custom. One day I went with Master Thien An to the bookstore in the Ginza district in Dongjing, halfway to meet some Japanese students, Master Thien An's friends. There was a student who asked Master Thien An a question, and then took out a white carnation in the shade and put it on my lapel button. I was curious, surprised, not knowing what she was doing, but did not dare to ask, trying to look natural, thinking that there was some kind of custom. After they finished talking, we went to the bookstore, Master Thien An told me that it was Mother's Day, according to Western custom. If you had a mother, you would wear a pink flower on his shirt and be proud of her. If you lose your mother, you'll be dressed in a white flower.

I looked back at the white flower on my shirt and suddenly felt sorry for myself. I was as orphaned as any wretched child; we had no pride in wearing a pink flower. The person who receives white flowers will feel pity, not forgetting his mother, even though the one has passed away. The person who receives the rose will be happy to remember that he has a mother and will try to please his mother, or he will not be able to cry in the future. I found that floral custom beautiful and thought I could imitate it on Vu Lan day. ”

The master also said that the flower that the Japanese student wear for him on Mother's Day in Dong Kinh was a carnation, not a rose, but when it was introduced to Vietnam, the rose was chosen to be used.

"Bông hồng cài áo" mean "Rose brooch"- that word quickly spread, and became the inspiration for American musician Pham The My to set the music for his famous song of the same name. Since then, every Vu Lan season, people often remind each other of that brooch rose to be proud, to sob...

"A rose for me
A rose for you.
And a rose for those who
For those who still have a mother.
With mother to have more joy..."

The song "Bông hồng cài áo" by the singer Duy Khanh

Perhaps, also from the spread of a cultural feature from Zen master Nhat Hanh - a son of the land of Thua

Artistic Value:

The usual ritual in the Vu Lan festival at the pagoda is the master of chanting and reciting the sutras. The believers kneel according to the ritual.  If a congregation comes to the temple to worship, the master of the ceremony, after the initial rituals, allows all members to read filial piety. After the official ceremony, he talked about the meaning of Vu Lan, reminding the members to repay their parents with specific actions. Blessed people are who still have their parents to take care of and filial piety in accordance with the Buddha's teaching to create a happy and warm family.

Vu Lan - the day toward the origin

However, I do not know when, Vu Lan is no longer a private holiday of Buddhist monks and nuns, no longer encapsulated in the temple but become a day for anyone to have the opportunity to show hospitality to their mother, and not only their mother, including their ancestors.

Also coinciding with the Vu Lan festival, the full moon day of the seventh lunar month in Asian folklore is also the day of remission of sins of Asian customs, a day for people to show respect to their parents and grandparents and also to help hungry souls.

These days, many Hue people visit tombs and burn incense for the deceased, many families there is the table of foods offered in front of the house, to worship the helpless spirits, also known by folklore as "worshiping the soul, " "offering alms" (giving food).

Buddhists wearing blue robes come to the pagoda to worship on Vu Lan day

On this day, every family sacrifices two trays: worship ancestors at the ancestral altar and worship sentient beings (offering alms or offering souls) in the front yard of the house or on the sidewalk (if the road is wide), the time of worship can be in the morning, noon or afternoon.

On the ancestral offerings table, the family sets up a tray of salty (or vegetarian), gold coins and even items for the people of the Underworld - paper kits made of symbolism such as clothes, shoes, shirts, palaces, horses, jewelry items... so that the people of the underworld can have a comfortable life like the living people. Currently, despite the minimalism of many rituals, for Hue people, the concept of "Yin an Yang are the same" is thoroughly applied. No matter how difficult the family conditions are, on the offering table, there is a bit of everything.

On the table of worshiping sentient beings, the offerings include clothes with many colors (blue, green, yellow, pink...), fruits, explosive seeds, green bean tea, waffles, porridge, gold coins, a glass of water or wine, a cup of rice mixed with salt (this cup will be sprinkled on the sidewalk or yard in four directions after the offering is completed), corn, boiled sweet potatoes, holy porridge... and other offerings for helpless ghosts and hungry ghosts. At the temple, when worshiping sentient beings, people often call the children around and then let them jump into the competition to steal offerings. It represents the souls...

According to folklore, from July 2, King of the Underworld ordered the opening of the Demon Gate and on the full moon of July, "let the door open" for the devil to pour out in all directions, until after 7 pm on July 12 it wa