Today, we will explore the profound and culturally significant tradition of the Death Anniversary in Vietnam. Join us as we delve into the heartfelt rituals, customs, and values that shape this sacred event, offering a glimpse into the rich tapestry of Vietnamese culture and the importance of filial piety in honoring the departed.
What is the Death Anniversary in Vietnam?
The Death Anniversary, known as “Giỗ” in Vietnamese, is a traditional ceremony held to commemorate and honor deceased family members and ancestors. It is an essential aspect of Vietnamese culture and is observed with solemnity and respect. During the Death Anniversary, family members gather to pay their respects, offer prayers, and make offerings such as food, flowers, and incense to the departed souls.
The Death Anniversary in Vietnam is not a sorrowful occasion. On the contrary, it is a day filled with warmth and love, where family members and friends come together to honor their departed loved ones.
This ritual reflects the deep reverence for ancestors and emphasizes the importance of maintaining family bonds and traditions across generations. The Death Anniversary holds great significance in Vietnamese society and serves as a meaningful way to remember and cherish the memories of loved ones who have passed away.
The event is typically commemorated on the day of the deceased’s passing.
Why do the Vietnamese celebrate the Death Anniversary?
There are several reasons why this ceremony holds significance in Vietnamese culture:
Ancestral Worship: Ancestral worship is deeply ingrained in Vietnamese culture. The Death Anniversary allows the living family members to express their respect and gratitude to their ancestors for the contributions they made to the family and society during their lifetime.
Family Bonding: The ceremony brings family members together, fostering a sense of unity and strengthening family bonds. It is an opportunity for relatives, both immediate and extended, to gather and reconnect, reinforcing the importance of family ties.
Continuity of Tradition: The Death Anniversary is a way to pass down cultural values and traditions from one generation to another. Through this practice, younger family members learn about their ancestors’ history and the customs that have shaped their identity.
Spiritual Beliefs: Many Vietnamese people hold spiritual beliefs in which they believe the souls of their ancestors continue to watch over and protect them. The Death Anniversary is a way to offer prayers and blessings to ensure the well-being of the deceased’s souls in the afterlife.
Filial Piety: Filial piety, or respect and care for one’s parents and ancestors, is highly valued in Vietnamese culture. Observing the Death Anniversary is an act of filial piety, showing the living’s devotion and love for their departed family members.
In Vietnam, the family members or close relatives of the deceased are the ones who organize the Death Anniversary. They take on the responsibility of planning and arranging the ceremony, including preparing food, making offerings, and inviting guests to participate in the commemoration.
The Preparation Process for the Celebration
The Death Anniversary is a significant occasion for the family, so it requires careful preparation. Typically, before the memorial day, family members come together at the host’s house to discuss the guest list, decide on the dishes to be prepared, and arrange the necessary ritual items. After this, each member is given specific tasks to handle, like buying chicken, wrapping banh chung (a traditional rice cake), preparing traditional dishes, and inviting guests.
Family members also visit the gravesites of their departed loved ones to clean and decorate the graves. Flowers and incense are carefully chosen to be offered as symbolic gestures of honor and remembrance.
The act of tidying the graves is not only an expression of love and respect but also an invitation, signifying that the spirits of the departed are welcome to join the ceremony.
Who will be invited?
Apart from family members, close relatives, friends, and neighbors are also invited to join the event. When guests come to attend the Death Anniversary, it is customary for them to bring along thoughtful gifts as a gesture of respect. These gifts can vary and often include items such as wrapped boxes of traditional cakes, bottles of wine or other beverages, and fresh, colorful fruits.
These offerings play a significant role in enhancing the sense of unity and community during the ceremony, reflecting the deep-rooted Vietnamese tradition of showing kindness and support to one another during times of remembrance.
Traditional Foods at Vietnam’s Death Anniversary
The Death Anniversary menu may differ slightly based on different regions of Vietnam, but there are some popular dishes that are commonly served, including the following:
Xoi (sticky rice)
Sticky rice is an indispensable dish in Vietnamese Death Anniversary celebrations. This beloved food holds a special place on the ceremonial table, symbolizing the family’s deep respect and love for their ancestors. Whether served plain, sweet, or savory with a variety of toppings, xôi adds a comforting and traditional touch to the solemn occasion, honoring the departed and keeping their memory alive.
Ga luoc (boiled chicken)
Special occasions like the Death Anniversary in Vietnam. The dish features tender chicken with fragrant herbs and spices, creating a flavorful and nourishing meal. Its significance lies in its representation of respect, purity, and reverence for departed loved ones.
Banh chung (chung cake)
Chung cake, or “bánh chưng” in Vietnamese, is a traditional delicacy often enjoyed during important occasions. Made from glutinous rice, mung beans, and pork, the cake is skillfully wrapped in banana leaves and boiled for hours.
Nem ran (fried spring rolls)
Nem rán, also known as fried spring rolls or egg rolls, is a beloved and popular dish in Vietnamese cuisine. These crispy and flavorful rolls are typically filled with a mixture of ground pork, shrimp, vegetables, and aromatic herbs. Deep-fried to perfection, they are served with a dipping sauce, creating a delightful and satisfying treat enjoyed by many.
Gio lua (Vietnamese pork sausage)
Giò lụa, known as Vietnamese pork sausage, is a widely enjoyed delicacy in Vietnamese cuisine. Made from pork, it boasts a delightful texture and mild flavor. Traditionally, it is encased in banana leaves, adding a unique aroma to the sausage.
Mien ga (chicken glass noodle soup)
Chicken glass noodle soup, also known as “Miến Gà,” is a delightful Vietnamese dish. This flavorful soup features tender chicken pieces, delicate glass noodles, and a savory broth infused with aromatic herbs and spices.
Mon xao (stir-fried mixed vegetables)
At the Death Anniversary in Vietnam, stir-fried mixed vegetables bring vibrant colors and fresh flavors to the special meal. This popular dish is a delightful combination of colorful vegetables, expertly stir-fried to perfection.
What people do on the main day
On the main day, the family members typically engage in a series of meaningful rituals and activities to pay homage to their deceased loved ones. Here are some common practices observed during this solemn occasion:
Offering Altar: The host of the events prepares an elaborate altar with photos of the deceased and adorns it with flowers, incense, and candles. This serves as a sacred space to remember and honor the departed.
Incense and Candle Lighting: Lighting incense and candles symbolize the connection between the living and the deceased. It is a way to invite the spirits of the ancestors to join the commemoration.
Food Offerings: Families prepare a special feast with the deceased’s favorite dishes and fruits. These offerings are placed on the altar as a gesture of respect and to ensure that the spirits will not go hungry.
Ancestral Prayers: Family members recite prayers and chant traditional verses to express gratitude, seek blessings, and wish for the peaceful journey of the departed souls in the afterlife.
Pouring Libations: Pouring water or rice wine into cups as an offering to the ancestors is a symbolic act of sharing the essence of the meal with them.
Sharing Stories and Memories: During the ceremony, family members often share stories and memories of their departed loved ones, keeping their legacy alive.
Commemoration Feast: After the rituals, the family and guests share the prepared feast, signifying the reunion between the living and the deceased.