The Vietnamese are known for their long-lasted ancestral commemoration in their families. The unique traditional traits of Vietnam are called death anniversary. While Birthday and Valentine's Day are essential in the west, Death Anniversary is the feature of worship customs in some Asian countries, including Vietnam. Read on if you have ever wondered what the death anniversary in Vietnam is and its spiritual importance to Vietnamese people.
Death anniversary in Vietnam or "Ngay Gio" in Vietnamese is the anniversary of passed-away members in the family, whose deceased day must be at least precisely one year until the ceremony is taken place. Death anniversary in Vietnam is held according to the dates on the lunar calendar, on which usually the oldest brother will take charge of the worshiping.
Family member doing the worshiping
Moreover, it is normal when a family has several ceremonies for the different passed-away members per year. The anniversary bears significant meanings to Vietnamese families, as this is not only the time to commemorate the deceased but also the occasion for all family members to gather and bond with each other.
The death anniversary in Vietnam held big or small depends on each family's economic condition. Generally, in these days, many members of the family give their hands in the feast preparation and the materials for the ancestor worship weeks before the ceremony officially happens.
On the anniversary day, all the descendants will dress neatly, burn incenses to pray in front of the ancestor altar as a way to show their respect and wish for a peaceful year ahead. The family also arrange tables, set the feast on them beforehand. Then, they receive the offerings of the guests, which are usually fruits, and place them on the altar. People invited to the ceremony are relatives, neighbors, or the ones who have a close relationship with the deceased. As soon as the incenses burn out, all members and guests sit down together to enjoy the food, have some drinks and catch up with each other at the same time. When the feast is over, the family will divide all the offerings into different bags and share them with all guests as a fortune of ancestral worship.
A huge table of foods is prepared to serve
Unlike the Vietnamese funerals where people mourn and grieve on the deceased, the death anniversary in Vietnam embraces a more delightful atmosphere year on year. It is not just an annual activity of worship and commemoration, but the occasion for family members to connect love, trust, and share their stories in their lives together.
Many kinds of fruits are placed on the altar
On this day, the sorrowful ambiance does still surrounds the family members, as it takes place only a year after the death of their beloved. As a result, the ceremony is taken place in a solemn way, where guests and family members wear formal costumes. Besides serving feast, they also burn joss paper and money. Laughing and telling jokes are not preferred during attendance.
In other Vietnamese word, we call it "Le Dai Tuong", which is held after two years since the person died. According to Vietnamese spiritual belief, the second anniversary is believed to be the most important ceremony for the deceased because it is the turning point for both the living and the dead. Comparing to the first one, the second anniversary becomes a little less depressed, and the owner of the family invites many guests to the ceremony.
In the third month after the second anniversary, the family will burn away all the belongings of their passed-away members. This is known as "Bo Tang" in Vietnamese, or you can understand that this is when the alive members stop their mourning period.
Many families prefer a small anniversary with a few special guests
The ordinary anniversary is held after three years onwards when the atmosphere is more delightful. Most far relatives and family members will reunite on this day, and people do not need to wear so formally on this day. The owner of the family will invite fewer guests and include mostly close friends and relatives, instead of holding an extravagant feast.
Death anniversary is one of the special traditional rituals of Vietnam to show the "Drink water, and honor the source" gratitude to ancestors. In addition, it is the time for a family to come together and build up a stronger relationship, harmony, and love.
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© Written by Duy Trang for itourvn.com