Vietnam Customs and Habbits
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Vietnam Customs and Habbits

Vietnam Worship

Worship of Ancestor Custom

Vietnam Worship of Ancestor Custom: A very popular belief among Vietnamese is the custom of the ancestor cult. In every household, an ancestor altar is installed in the most solemn location.

Vietnamese believe that the soul of a dead person, even if dead for many generations, still rests along with their descendants on earth. The dead and living persons still have spiritual communion; in everyday life, people must not forget that what they enjoy and how they feel is the same for their dead relatives.
On the last day of every lunar year, an announcing cult, cung tien thuong, is performed to invite the dead forefathers to return home to celebrate Tet holidays with their families. During the last days before Tet, all family members visit their ancestors? graves; they clean and decorate the graves, in the same manner that the livings clean and decorate their houses to welcome the New Year.

On the anniversary of an ancestor?s death, descendants and relatives unite and prepare a feast to worship the dead people and to ask for health and happiness for themselves. From generation to generation, ancestor worshipping customs have been religiously preserved. There are some small variations between those customs among the many Vietnamese ethnic groups, but the common theme of fidelity and gratitude towards the ancestors remains.

Match makers in Vietnam

Match Makers

Vietnam Match makers: Generations ago, marriage was a family affair, as parents select their child?s spouse.

In the past, the weddings of  Kinh people - Vietnam's ethnic majority - were arranged by matchmakers. Before marriage, the betrothed were not allowed to touch each other. If the young woman wished to offer her suitor a quid of betel, she placed the quid on a tray. Feudal ethics forbade any direct expression of love.

If the newlyweds were happy, the matchmaker became their benefactor and was thanked with a bowl of steamed sticky rice, a boiled chicken, and a silk dress following the wedding. When the couple celebrated the one-month anniversary of their first child, the matchmaker was invited to the party.

Following an introduction by the matchmaker, the grooms family would visit the bride's family to ask after their daughter's name and age. This ceremony was an important tirst step, as the girl's age determined in her suitability as a bride. The groom's family would study the horoscopes of the prospective couple, only agreeing to a wedding if the pair's horoscopes were complementary. As well as having suitable horoscopes, the couple should come from the same social class.

Asking for wedding presents was a feudal custom that placed a lot of strain on both families. Some couples had to break up because the girl's family demanded gifts beyond the grooms family's means. The brides family might request dresses, bottles of wine, cakes, betel nuts, rice, pigs, chickens, jewelry, and money. Sometimes, the groom's family would go deep into debt, forcing the young couple to spend years paying back the costs incurred by their wedding. Resentment between the bride and groom and their respective families was inevitable.

A traditional wedding ceremony involved a great many gifts. Phu the cakes were mandatory. Made of rice flour, sugar, coconut and green beans, these cakes consist of a round filling between two square layers - said to represent the earth and the sky. The cakes are associated with loyalty, flexibility and honesty.

To raise pigs you must collect ivater ferns. To get married you must be pay "way ahead" to the village.

"Way ahead" was a sum of money that the grooms family offered to the girl's home village. If the boy and the girl were natives of the same village, the groom's family still had to pay "way ahead", although the sum was smaller. Only after receiving the "way ahead" would the village officials issue a marriage certificate. The collected money was to be used for public works, like sinking a well or building a road.

An hour or two before it was time to fetch the bride, the groom's uncle or aunt would go to the brides house to discuss the correct time to pick up the bride. This custom allowed the families to solve last-minute obstacles of poor weather or heavy traffic.

At the bride's home, the bride and groom worshiped at the ancestral altar, praying that the ancestors would support their future and ensure them a happy life. After that, the bride and groom offered a tray of betel nuts and cigarettes to thek guests, starting with the eldest and most respected guests. Finally, the bride and groom kowtowed to the brides parents. The brides parents reciprocated with a small gift, normally earrings or some money.

The mother-of-the-bride was not permitted to send her daughter off to the grooms house. It was considered the fathers right to arrange the marriage. Often, the bride would cry as she worried about her future among strangers, while her mother would cry at the thought of losing her child. According to custom, the mother was forbidden from watching her daughters departure.

Upon arrival at the grooms house, other customs were observed. In the central provinces of Nghe An-Ha Tinh, the mother-in-law would welcome the bride by placing a water scoop and a large brass pot full of water beside the front gate. Inside the pot she would throw a few coins. The water symbolized her blessing for the bride, while the coins showed that the new daughter-in-law had access to private capital.

After honoring the groom's ancestors, the mother-in-law led the bride into the wedding room. Here, a respected older man or woman with both a son and a daughter had spread a new flowered sedge mat on the bed. This tradition was designed to ensure that the couple would have a son and a daughter and a happy future.

In ether parts of Vietnam, the mother-in-law was not allowed to meet the bride, but instead took a pot of lime and went to a neighbors house. This custom showed that, while she was passing authority to her daughter-in-law, she retained the lime pot, symbolic of a woman's role in managing the housework.

In the past, most newlyweds were teenagers. It was common for girls of 13 and boys of 16 to marry. Bridesmaids would often accompany the bride to the groom's house and spend a few days teaching the bride how to become a wife and daughter-in-law. The bridesmaids typically departed after two or four days, when the newlyweds performed a custom known as lot mat, in which they returned to the bride's house to visit her parents and bring them some gifts. This tradition expressed the children's filial piety towards their parents.

Today, young people in Vietnam are free to choose their own partners. To outsiders, weddings may appear very Westernized, as most brides don white gowns, while the grooms family hosts a large reception, often in a restaurant or hotel. Behind the scenes, however, many of the old traditions persist. From the offering of betel nuts to the ceremonial laying down of the newlyweds' sedge mat, wedding rituals have retained their symbolic value.

Vietnam Wedding Ceremony

Wedding Ceremony

Wedding is very important to Vietnamese, not only to the couple involved, but also for both families. Thus, it is usually including quite a few formal ritual observances. The Wedding day is usually chosen well in advance by the groom and the bride's parents (in the old time, it is not necessarily Saturday or Sunday, as well as they believe it is good based on the groom and the bride's age).

Depending on habits of specific ethnic groups, marriage includes various steps and related procedures, but generally there are two main ceremonies:

Le an hoi (betrothal ceremony): Some time before the wedding, the groom and his family visit the bride and her family with round lacquered boxes known as betrothal presents composed of gifts of areca nuts and betel leaves, tea, cake, fruits, wines and other delicacies covered with red cloth and carried by unmarried girls or boys. Both families agree to pick a good day for wedding.

Le cuoi (wedding ceremony): Guests would be invited to come to join a party and celebrate the couple?s happiness. The couple should pray before the altar asking their ancestors for permission for their marriage, then to express their gratitude to both groom?s and bride?s parents for raising and protecting them. Guests will share their joy at a party later.

On the wedding day, the groom's family and relatives go to the bride's house bringing a lot of gifts wrapped in red papers. These gifts are similar to those of the engagement: betel leaves and areca nuts, wines, fruits, cakes, tea ... Those who hold these trays are also carefully chosen, usually they are happily married couples. Ladies and women are all dressed in Ao Dai. Men could be in their suits or men traditional Ao Dai. The troop are usually led by a couple that is most wealthy and successful among the relatives, this means to wish the to-be-wed couples a blessing life together in the future.

The groom's family would stop in the font of the bride's house. The leading couple should enter the house first bringing a tray with wine and tiny cups on it. They would invite the bride's parents to take a sip. By accepting the toast, the bride's family agree for the groom family to enter their house. The firework is immediately fired to greet the groom's family.

The groom's family would introduce themselves and ask permission for their son to marry his bride. The Master of the Ceremony (usually a respected person among the bride's relatives) instructs the bride's parents to present their daughter. The bride then follows her parents out. She is in Vietnamese traditional wedding Ao Dai which is usually in red. Followed are her bride maids.  The wedding ceremony starts in front of the altar. The bride and the groom would kneel down and pray, asking their ancestors' permission to be married, also asking for blessing on their family-to-be. The couple then turn around and bow down to the bride's parents to say thank for raising and protecting her since birth. They then bow their head to each other, which means to show their gratitude and respect toward their soon-to-be husband or wife. The Master of the Ceremony would gave the wedding couple advices on starting a new family. The groom and the bride's parents would take turn to share their experience and give blessing. The groom and the bride then exchange their wedding rings. The parents will give the newly wedded value gifts such as golden bracelets, ear rings, necklace... The ceremony is ended with a round applause.

Today, a lot of Vietnamese couples have their wedding ceremony done in Temples or Churches which is very much similar to American and Western style, including exchanging vows and wedding rings. However, they still maintain Vietnamese traditional ceremony in the bride's home before heading to temples or churches.

A wedding banquet is scheduled in the evening at a hotel or a big restaurant. It is always a delight feast that all relatives, friends, and neighbors are invited. A music band is usually hired to play live songs.

At the banquet, the groom, bride, and their family are once again introduced to the guests and everyone will drink a toast. Dinner will be served at the tables.

During the reception, the groom, bride, and their parents will stop by each table to say thank to their guests. The guest in return, will give envelopes containing wedding cards and money gifts to the newly wedded couples along with their blessing. A lot of weddings nowadays are followed by a dancing party, which is opened by the groom and the bride's first dance. The party does not recess until very late at night. The newly wedded couples then leave for their honey moon.

Funeral Ceremony

Funeral Ceremony

Funeral Ceremony: Formerly funeral ceremonies went as following: the body was washed and dressed; then a le ngam ham, or chopstick, was laid between the teeth and a pinch of rice and three coins were dropped in the mouth.

Then the body was put on a grass mat laid on the ground according to the saying ?being born from the earth, one must return back to the earth.? The dead body was enveloped with white cloth, le kham liem, and put into the coffin, le nhap quan. Finally, the funeral ceremony, le thanh phuc, was officially performed.

The deceased person?s sons, daughters, and daughters-in-law had to wear coarse gauze turbans and tunics, and hats made of straw or of dry banana fiber. The deceased person?s grandchildren and relatives also had to wear mourning turbans. During the days when the dead were still laid out at home, the mourning went on with worshipping meals and mourning music. Relatives, neighbours, and friends came to offer their condolences.

The date and time for the funeral procession, le dua tang, must be carefully selected. Relatives, friends, and descendants take part in the funeral procession to accompany the dead along the way to the burial ground. Votive papers were dropped along the way. At the grave site, the coffin is buried and covered. After three days of mourning, the family visits the tomb again, le mo cua ma or worship the opening the grave; after 49 days, le chung that, the family stops bringing rice for the dead to the altar. And finally, after 100 days, the family celebrates tot khoc, or the end of the tears. After one year is the ceremony of the first anniversary of the relative?s death and after two years is the ceremony of the end of mourning.

Nowadays, mourning ceremonies follow new rituals which are simplified; they consist of covering and putting the dead body into the coffin, the funeral procession, the burial of the coffin into the grave, and the visits to the tomb. The deceased person?s family members wear a white turban or a black mourning band.

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