Death anniversary in Vietnam – a unique traditional custom
Vietnam is an oriental country with many unique traditional cultures, especially the ancestors worship custom. Whilst, death anniversary is a feature in this custom. So ever you wonder what is a death anniversary in Vietnam and how meaningful it is to locals?
The concept of a death anniversary in Vietnam
Death anniversary or “Gio” in Vietnamese is a ceremony for descendants to memorial those who have died. It is held on the day of death of worshiped person according to the lunar calendar.
Death anniversary in Vietnam is a very important and meaningful day to Vietnamese people. Therefore, you can easily find that there are lots of death anniversaries to a family in the year round. This is not only the day to remind of ancestors but also an occasion for all family members to gather for a long time no see because of the busy life. Moreover, people who have close relationships with the deceased can attend the ceremony as well.
The death anniversary is only carried out in 5 latest generations to the people who are responsible for the worshipping, mostly male descendants. Other ancestors who are further will have a procession to a clan ancestral house for worship.
The main rituals and activities of a death anniversary in Vietnam
For the anniversary, the family members have prepared the feast from the day before. On the main day, the owner of the family or the head of the lineage will dress neatly to do the ceremony. He will pray and venerate before the altar. When the guests come to the anniversary, they have to place offerings on the altar and also do the venerate as well.
After the ceremony, all people have to wait for 3 incenses to burn out. Then, the owner will venerate again and burn the joss paper. Finally, the family will set the table and invite all members and guests to enjoy the feast. This is also a day to review old memories of the deceased and share each other about work, life and more.
After the feast, the owner will take all the offerings such as fruits, candies, etc to divide into many bags for each family and guests. They also called these things are ancestral fortunes.
As you see, death anniversary in Vietnam is more than a ritual. It likes a day to connect people in the family, sit together, put aside the busy work to have a meal and share stories with each other. Because of this, the ancestors in the afterlife can feel happy too.
The significant days in the culture of death anniversary in Vietnam
The first death anniversary (or Gio Dau in Vietnamese)
After a year the person died, the first death anniversary in Vietnam will be held. Due to the short time, this day is still full of sadness and sorrow. The ceremony is held solemnly. On this day, besides the offerings, the owner will buy many joss paper and worship them to the deceased. After that, they take the joss paper out the grave to burn. Then, the family will serve the feast for all members and guests.
The second death anniversary (or Gio Het in Vietnamese)
This is the anniversary after two years since the person died. In general, the rituals and atmosphere are the same as the first anniversary. However, the owner family burn more joss paper and invite more guests to the ceremony.
Two months after the anniversary day, on the third month, people in the family will choose a good day to “Bo tang” or you can understand that they will burn all the dead’s belongings like funeral clothes. Then, alive people can join the fun occasions or activities, visit relative’s house in Tet, have the hair cut or so on. Moreover, the new wife can remarry another if her husband died. The second death anniversary in Vietnam has a big meaning because it is a turning point for the livings as well as the dead.
Normal anniversary (or Gio Thuong in Vietnamese)
After 3 years and onwards from death, the normal anniversary will be held. On these days, all the descendants reunite, wear normal polite clothes and memorial the deceased. Besides, the ambiance is more delightful and the owner family invites fewer guests than above anniversaries.
Death anniversary takes a big part in Vietnamese people spiritual life. It’s not just a day to remind descendants about the ancestors but also a chance for all family members gathering and sharing. With featured rituals, death anniversary in Vietnam has become a cultural beauty to show the filial piety and respect to ancestors.