Every year on May 5th of the lunar calendar, some countries China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam have Mid-year Festival. In China, on this day, they celebrate a festival called Dragon Bloat Festival. In Vietnam, the festival celebrated on May 5th is called Tet Doan Ngo, Worm-killing Festival or Vietnamese Mid-year Festival.
Some researchers think that the celebration has its origin in China. There is a legend Qu Yuan – Chinese poet and minister who lived during the Warring States period of ancient China. In Vietnam, we call him Khuat Nguyen. He was a faithful person, but met the time the country declined. He hindered the king from making some bad decisions. Other officials devised false stories about him. The king did not follow his advice and hated him. He was so sad and drowned himself in the Mich La, China on May 5th of the lunar calendar. Chinese people regretted the person having clear heart. Every year, on this day, people made cakes with five-color strings and dropped them to the river to offer Khuat Nguyen. They tied five-color strings on the cakes in order to make fishes afraid and do not dare to eat the cakes. They also poured rice into bamboo tubes and dropped them into the river. The custom gradually spread through some nearby countries.
Vietnamese people call this day Worm-killing Festival because most of farmers start killing worms on their rice fields and orchards. Vietnamese ancestors had told us a story about Doi Truan who taught farmers how to kill a lot of worms eating almost fruits and rice. He offered Banh gio (Pyramid sticky rice cake), fruits to Gods in front of a house and did exercises. He told that if farmers did the same things on the same day every year, all worms will be weaker and killed easily. The man had disappeared after helping killing worms. Nowadays, grandparents tell their children about the stories, teach them to be grateful to ancestors and country’s tradition.
After The Lunar New Year, in Vietnam’s countryside, everybody has to work hard until mid year, they need to take a rest, make delicious foods to offer their ancestors and enjoy parties after that. Although not all families make their living as farmers in recent days, most of Vietnamese family celebrate Vietnamese Mid-year Festival which is considered as the soul of our country, the thank to God and Mother Nature giving us foods to eat.
On this day, some people believe that if they take a bath with water cooked with some special leaves, they can be protected from sickness, unluckiness, ghosts and devils. People in some regions bath in the sea at noon to cleanse your minds, body and soul with seawater to start new life on future days. It’s a chance for family members who are working far from home come back to see each other, sit round tables and enjoy lots of delicious traditional foods cooked by skillful women in their families. Followings are dishes usually eaten at Vietnamese Mid-year Festival in Vietnam:
– Com ruou or Vietnamese Rice Wine Dessert – brewed glutinous rice balls mixed with sugar caramel before serving.
– Banh u tro or Vietnamese pyramid glutinous rice cake. It is a delicious traditional Vietnamese cake made from glutinous rice, coconut cream, sugar. Glutinous rice must be soaked in a liquid from mix of ash and water before being wrapped in banana leaves with filling.
– Roasted pork and roasted duck.
– Banh xeo or Vietnamese pancake. This is a semi circle crepe which batter is made from turmeric powder, rice flour, coconut creme. It’s filled with bean sprouts, shrimp and mushroom…
– Che hat sen or Vietnamese sweet soup with lotus seeds.
– Sticky rice wine.
(Vietnamese sweet soup with lotus seed)
(Vietnamese pyramid glutinous rice cake)
(by Tracy Do on www.scootersaigontour.com)