Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Vu Lau: Go Vegetarian on Mother's Day

Source: Flickr. (c) Herr_Bert.
(source: LookAtVietnam.com)

Vietnamese show their respect to mothers in the Vu Lan festival by wearing roses and going vegetarian.

The Vu Lan festival allegedly dates back to an Indian sutra which was translated into Chinese in the Third Century. The sutra told the story of a pair of Buddhist disciples who enlisted the help of Buddhist monks to save their mother’s soul. Legend has it that the woman had been reborn as a hungry spirit due to her evil deeds in life. The two believers gathered an assembly of monks to make offerings to her spirit and ease her suffering.

This story developed into the Vu Lan festival, which thrived in Vietnam, where people continue to believe that the spirits of the dead return home to feast on this day. Families all over Vietnam still put out offerings and burn incense for the dead. When the incense burns out (and the spirits have “feasted” on the offerings) children are allowed to eat the fruit and other food on the altars.

In the last hundred years or so, the holiday has also taken on a special meaning for living mothers, and the festival has now become something like a Vietnamese Mother’s Day. The Vu Lan festival falls on the seventh full moon of the lunar calendar. This year, in 2011, it will be held on August 14.

Buddhists and non-Buddhists wishing to express their gratitude and love toward their mothers pin roses to their clothing and head for the pagodas. People with living mothers wear red roses; those with deceased mothers wear white roses. The rose is a symbol of love and sharing among parents and their children, regardless of their social background.

Vegetarian cuisine plays an important role in commemorating the departed spirits. As a result, the town’s vegan restaurants (that typically see traffic only during the end and middle of the lunar month, when Buddhists avoid meat) are pulling out all the signs.

By Nguyet Anh, Thanh Nien News (The whole article can be found in the August 5th issue of their print edition, Thanh Nien Weekly).

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