Ghost month – Guide to understand Vietnamese culture

Of all the months in Vietnam, the full moon of July is one of the most interesting months of the year. The full moon day of July is Ghost Month, which reflects many sharp cultures in Vietnamese folklore and carries important spiritual and worship meanings that anyone traveling to Vietnam is curious about.
Ghost month - Guide to understand Vietnamese culture - AN Tours Vietnam

When does Ghost Month start?

Ghost month is the 7th month of the calendar every year. In 2023, the month of ghosts will span 2 calendar months, lasting from August 16 ( 1/7 of the calendar) to September 14 ( 30/7 of the calendar) usually falls around August to September.

Interesting things in the month of ghosts

Interesting things in the month of ghosts - AN Tours Vietnam

Ghost month in Vietnam is partly influenced by Chinese culture that was introduced to Vietnam a long time ago. The month of ghosts comes from the legend of Ananda and the fire-mouthed demon and the month of ghosts also comes from other spiritual beliefs because people have two categories: soul and body. When a person dies, only the body becomes dust while the soul continues to exist. The fate of the soul will be judged by the King of Hell: good people will be reincarnated into another life, while evil people will be sent to hell or spend a miserable life in the human world. There are many interesting things about the unique culture as well as spiritual stories surrounding the month of ghosts in Vietnam that foreign tourists do not know.

“Giut Co Hon” - Offerings Snatching of the Spirits

“Giut Co Hon” - Offerings Snatching of the Spirits - AN Tours Vietnam

Although it is unclear when this custom originated, since ancient times, Vietnamese families for many generations have always maintained “Giut Co Hon”-offering snatching of the spirits. This concept means that on the full moon day of month 7, in addition to the ritual of worshiping gods and ancestors, families often perform an additional ritual of worshiping sentient beings, also known as worshiping ghosts, to avoid being disturbed by ghosts. Before the ghost worshiping ceremony ends, the family The owner will carry an offering tray containing change, popcorn, boiled potatoes, cakes, candy… out on the street for everyone to compete for. The ancient concept of capturing ghosts is to offer them to those who have died. wandering, starving and thirsting will help them escape and be prosperous in the afterlife. Another interesting thing about this custom is that it has a spiritual meaning that the offering tray is cleaned by children fighting over it. It is considered good luck for the homeowner because this will make the spirits happy. Many people also believe that feeding small children with offerings will help them be blessed and healthy.

The practices during the month of ghosts are passed down by folk

In folklore, there are many things to abstain from during the month of the soul with the concept of “Worship is sacred, abstinence is good”. Below are some local customs passed down that tourists coming to Vietnam during this time can refer to but do not necessarily have to follow:

Do not eat broken offerings

Do not eat broken offerings - AN Tours Vietnam

This comes from the concept that ghosts appear everywhere in the 7th month of the calendar, including many hungry ghosts. The offering tray for sentient beings is for these subjects. If you intentionally touch or eat it before completing the offering, that action is considered to anger the demons, making them angry and causing trouble.

Go through a deserted place and don't turn back

When going to a deserted place, I often get nervous. I always have the feeling that someone is watching me, but I absolutely only walk forward and don’t turn around. This is an opportunity for the devil to tease you and make you feel insecure.

Do not stick chopsticks into the rice bowl

Do not stick chopsticks into the rice bowl - AN Tours Vietnam

Sticking chopsticks into a bowl of rice is considered highly disrespectful because according to traditional customs, people only do this by burning incense for the dead. If you put a pair of chopsticks in a bowl of rice, it is like offering rice to the dead. This will make ghosts smell it and eat together, bringing negative energy into your home. Therefore, this is an act that absolutely should not be done.

Avoid breaking dishes

During the month of ghosts, especially the first day of the month (lunar calendar), people are extremely taboo about breaking dishes. These days, broken or chipped dishes are a sign of bad luck and misfortune. Broken dishes also symbolize a troubled family, bad luck and fortune are lost.

Do not let the toes of your shoes point toward the bed

Putting the tip of the shoe towards the bed will make the devil guess that the person on the bed is alive, so they will climb into the bed and sleep with humans.

Don't call each other names at night

Calling each other’s names loudly at night will make the devil remember that person’s name. That’s why this action is bringing disaster to yourself.

Do not arbitrarily burn paper or joss paper

Do not arbitrarily burn paper or joss paper - AN Tours Vietnam

Arbitrarily burning paper and joss paper during this time is said to be like calling on the spirits of demons, bringing bad luck and misfortune.

Do not hang wind chimes at the head of the bed

Ancient people believed that hanging wind chimes at the head of the bed during the month of ghosts would call ghosts to the house. The sound of wind chimes will attract evil spirits, which not only affects sleep but also affects daily life. Can be easily disturbed by demons

Do not hang wind chimes at the head of the bed - AN Tours Vietnam

Do not pick up money dropped on the street

This is also one of the important concepts in the 7th lunar month that the elderly often convey to the next generation. Because when performing rituals during the “Month of Ghosts”, many people often drop coins on the street to try to attract the souls of buffalo-headed and horse-faced demons or save them from bowing to the ghosts… If someone in this living world starts accumulating coins in this way, then this really should not be done.

Do not cut your hair in the month of the ghost

Hair is a part of a person and according to spiritual beliefs, cutting hair at the beginning of the month or year should not be done. If you do so, it can cause bad luck, illness, or even affect that person’s fortune and career. In particular, during the month of ghosts, if you do not follow this rule, you can easily be “taunted by ghosts”. Therefore, according to folk beliefs, it is best not to cut your hair on days when evil spirits are raging.

However, these are just oral traditions from folk, there is still no authentic scientific research. So this is only considered a custom of local people, tourists are not forced to follow it.

Traveling in Spirit Month: Things You Must Know

Visit festivals for ghost month

Ghost month will fall in the 7th lunar month calculating the lunar day usually falls around August to September of the year. Even though it is the month of ghosts here, it is often unlucky and cannot do important work such as openings, groundbreaking, etc. In addition, the month is also welcomed with many major ceremonies that visitors can participate in. like:

Nguyen Dinh Chieu Festival: July 1 of the solar calendar, in An Duc commune, Ba Tri district, Ben Tre province. This is a special ceremony for Western poet Nguyen Dinh Chieu. Therefore, every year, a traditional Vietnamese festival is held on his birthday to commemorate him, who was both a talented doctor, an outstanding teacher, and a poet with great talent. Many unique patriotic poetic works have a strong influence on all classes of society.

Traveling in Spirit Month - AN Tours Vietnam

That Tich Festival (Lich That Feast): That Tich Festival, which takes place on July 7 every year, is considered Valentine’s Day in China. This day represents love between couples, based on the story of Nguu Lang, a poor boy, and Zhi Nu, a fairy. They can only meet once a year on this day. Usually, there are very few places where this ceremony is held, but there is a custom for unmarried people to eat red beans, which will bring good luck to their lover in the near future. If you are single, don’t miss this red bean-eating festival.

Traveling in Spirit Month - AN Tours Vietnam (2)

Full Moon Festival of July: The Full Moon Festival of July is an indispensable and important holiday for Buddhists. On this day, there are two important events taking place: the Vu Lan Ceremony and the Atonement Ceremony for the Dead.

The Vu Lan Ceremony, also known as the Vu Lan Ceremony of Filial piety, comes from a touching story about Buddha’s Disciple Muc Kieu Lien. Besides, July 15 is also the Day of Forgiveness of the Dead, originating from the legend of Ananda and the fire-mouthed demon known as the burning-faced demon.

These days, all temples in Vietnam in particular, and Southeast Asian countries, in general, are decorated with bright flower lights, because this is also the day when Buddhists visit the sights and go to temples in large numbers.

Traveling in Spirit Month - AN Tours Vietnam (1)

Ong and Ba Chieu’s Mausoleum Festival: At the end of the 7th lunar month is the occasion to celebrate the death anniversary of Ong and Ba Chieu. Many people often get confused by thinking that Mr. and Mrs. Chieu are people named Chieu. However, the reality is that this mausoleum belongs to Ta Quan Le Van Duyet and his wife, Mrs. Do Thi Phan. The reason why it is called Ba Chieu is because the tomb of Thuong Quoc Cong Ta Quan Le Van Duyet is located in the land called Ba Chieu. Currently, this mausoleum is located in Binh Thanh district. In the past, in the ancient Gia Dinh period, the Lang Ong Ba Chieu Festival became one of the largest festivals, attracting tens of thousands of participants, of which 50% were Chinese.

Traveling in Spirit Month - AN Tours Vietnam (3)

Above are just some typical major ceremonies in Vietnam. So when you come to Vietnam in the month of ghosts, don’t worry that there won’t be anything to visit or scary folk customs. Because surrounding it, there are still traditional festivals imbued with cultural imprints and moral values ​​as well as carrying people’s wishes for health, love, and career., extending from North, Central, and South. concatenate. Don’t miss the opportunity if you can travel this month.

Visit the pagoda

In Eastern culture, many people often perform activities such as visiting temples, holding rituals to honor ancestors and spirits, along with making offerings. Going to the temple in the month of the Soul can be considered a way to pray and hope for the soul, while also wishing for the well-being and peace of everyone.

Ghost month - Guide to understand Vietnamese culture - AN Tours VietnamGhost month - Guide to understand Vietnamese culture - AN Tours Vietnam

However, performing temple ceremonies during the Ghost month or any other time often depends on religious views. If you are religious you can go visit and pray. Otherwise, you can stop by to take photos with activities such as praying for souls, worshiping, or traditional offerings. At temples and famous spiritual sites in Vietnam, tourists are often welcomed and encouraged to participate in religious and cultural activities. These rituals often take place in sacred spaces, with candles and scents spreading everywhere, creating unique, soulful images that visitors want to record. Don’t miss it.

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