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Vietnamese Special Ritual Activities in Lunar July - The Month of Hungry Ghost

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From the beginning of lunar July, Vietnamese usually talk about “The month of Hungry Ghost” because it is believed that people often have a lot of bad luck during this month. In Vietnam as well as China, worshiping hungry ghost has been a traditional spiritual belief for thousand years.

1. Why is lunar July called as the month of Hungry Ghost?

In Vietnamese belief, human has 2 parts including body and soul. When a person passes away, the body lost but the soul still exists: good people will begin a new life while bad people must go to the 18th floor of hell or become hungry ghosts. According to Chinese legend, from lunar July 2 to 0:00 lunar July 15, the Hell Gate is opened so ghosts can come to the human world and bring many troubles to people. It is the reason why lunar July is known as the month of Hungry Ghost.

Fire Mouth Devil - The Month of Hungry Ghost

Ananda and Fire Mouth Devil 

In Buddhist, lunar July is associated with the story of Ananda, who is the attendant of the Buddha. While Ananda was sitting in meditation, a fire mouth ghost appeared and announced that Ananda would dead in three days later if he did not give the food for hungry ghosts. This worship custom still exists until today and also known as “Forgiving the dead” or “worshiping homeless ghost” ritual.

2. Special rituals

The Hell - The Month of Hungry Ghost

The Hell

Every year, Vietnamese worship hungry ghost during a month because it does not have a fixed day. Many people believe that in the ghost month, you should be vegetarian and chanting the Buddha’s name, abstain from doing a list of things, such as:

  • Do not go out at night because the night is the time of devil, so people should not go out this time to avoid trouble.
  • Do not dry clothes at night because ghosts can "borrow" it to wear which make you unlucky.
  • Do not call each other's name in the middle of the night because this action will make the ghost remember the name of that person and may haunt him/her.
  • Do not arbitrarily burn votive in the month of the ghost because this will attract more ghosts wandering around you and bother your life.

Burning votive - The Month of Hungry Ghost

Burning Votive

  • Do not stand near the banyan tree because Vietnamese believe that banyan is the plant of soul, especially in this month. So human should not stand there to avoid ghost disturbing.
  • Do not hang wind chimes near your bed because the wind chimes will call hungry ghost to your house and bother your sleep and your life.
  • Do not swimming in the 7th month of lunar calendar, especially in rivers, streams, ponds and lakes because there are many hidden dangers, the ghost will pull your legs from under the water.
  • Do not eat hungry ghost’s offering before having permission. From the beginning to the full moon day of lunar July (15th July), every family often spends 1 day worshiping hungry ghosts. If you eat their offering without permission, they will bring the bad luck to you.

Worshiping - The Month of Hungry Ghost

Worshiping

  • Do not cut your hair in the ghost month. Vietnamese said that: "one hair manages 3 demons", if it is cut in this month, the demons will bring a lot of bad luck to you.
  • Do not do important things during the month of hungry ghost, such as: signing business contracts, getting married, building a house, etc. In case of force majeure, you need to choose the good day carefully.

However, the list above is based on human habit or psychological having a good meaning and remembrance to the dead. Like the Architecture in Vietnam, it also reflecting one part of the culture in Vietnam.

For more details: Mid-Autumn Festival Traditions

Thanh Van

(Images source: Internet)

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