‘’Mua Vu Lan’’ is the opportunity each year for Vietnamese people to show their gratitude to their mothers, and indeed ancestors who have preceded them. Ancestor worship is an important element of life throughout Asia, and certainly that is the case throughout Vietnam. It is a Buddhist holiday and it shows how closely ancestor worship relates to Buddhism, rather than there being in conflict.
The date of Mother’s Day, according to legend, goes back to the earliest days of Buddhism. One day, when one of the main Buddhist disciples, Muc Kien, was meditating, he had a vision of his mother being tortured because of her evil deeds when she was alive. She was starving and had no food. He summoned his powers to provide a bowl of rice but it was burnt in the fires before she could eat.
Returning to the conscious world, he asked Buddha for guidance on how he could help her as was his duty as a son. Buddha suggested he call together monks and other devotees to pray and the day this is now celebrated is the day when that praying took place in legend. It varies within the western calendar of course. If you wish to be travelling in Vietnam with kids at that time, then you need to check the date when you book your Vietnam tour package.
The legend incidentally has a happy ending; the prayers resulted in Muc Kien’s mother being released but also many other souls that were suffering. Ever since Mua Vu Lan, ‘’Wandering Souls’ Day’’ is a festival that celebrates the gates of hell being opened for 24 hours to allow troubled spirits to escape.
This links in with ancestor worship because the belief among Vietnamese is that lost souls can therefore return to the family home. The custom of offering food and clothing for ancestors is a result.
A ceremony aims at feeding the hungry and pray for their salvation. Up to seven generations may be rescued from their current misery and families can select a day in the appropriate month for this ceremony. It is the children who are allowed to eat the food at the end of the ceremony. Many people go to the pagoda, wearing a red rose if their parents are still alive, and a white one if they are dead.
Guilty spirits can be forgiven due to the prayer of the living is a positive belief held by Buddhists and non-Buddhists in Vietnam. Some people who have moved to the city will still visit a pagoda in the city to prayer for their mothers back in the village. If they are visiting their mothers they will take flowers, much the same as happens in many other parts of the world. Many traditions continue year after year in Vietnam. Mother’s Day is a chance to thank mother for all that she has done. Perhaps if you are on holiday in Vietnam with kids, they will take the opportunity to buy mother flowers as well?