Tradition has an enormous role in Vietnamese life though some things are changing, in some cases being simplified. At one time when someone died the body was washed and dressed and laid on a mat on the ground. A grain of rice and three coins were put in the mouth a chopstick between the teeth. The body was wrapped in white cloth, placed in the coffin and buried. Mourning continued for three days before the grave was opened for further worship. For seven weeks, the family brought rice to the altar. The ‘’end of tears’’, ‘’tot khoc’’ was after 100 days though the first and second anniversary of the death were reasons for a ceremony.
If you are travelling in Vietnam today, you may see a funeral procession in which family members will either wear a white turban or a black band. There are three stages in most of today’s funerals:
• Nhap Quan or entering the coffin starts with the cleaning or the body and finishes as the body is placed in the coffin. Water or alcohol is used to clean the body which is then dressed in new white clothes. Close relations of the dead person will also wear funeral clothes. When the body has been placed in the coffin, relatives go slowly around the coffin for a final time. If the dead is a Buddhist or holds no specific religion a bowl of rice and an egg are placed on the coffin. A Christian death will mean a card with the person’s name on it.
• The second stage is the arrival of guests and friends. The coffin may still be at the house but wherever it is, these people join in prayer for the dead as well as console the family. They are likely to be wearing dark clothes and bring flowers, and sometimes money to help with the funeral costs.
• A member of the family will make a short speech before they all proceed to the cemetery for burial or for burning. The mourning period after the death varies; it is for 3 months to 3 years. Whatever the period, family members will wear a piece of black cloth somewhere on their bodies, arms or chest.
In rural areas, the body may still be placed in a rice field in a ceremony during which the eldest son will either walk backwards or roll in the mud to express sorrow at the passing. Many Vietnam private tours include tourists visiting villages in rural areas to see the normal daily life of farmers, or coastally, fishermen. There is unlikely to be a mourning happening during a visit. If there is, there is no problem observing and showing due respect for the death. During the immediate period after the death, there will be limited work in the fields though other villagers may well help out where necessary because villages are true communities where everyone helps out. It is one of the real pleasures of a Vietnam travel package to see a community in operation.
Read more: Vietnamese festival and event