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Vietnam's special Mid-year Festival amid Covid-19 pandemic

Rosie Nguyen Rosie Nguyen

ngtrang12.ftu@gmail.com

June 14, 2021 | 15:42

In Vietnam, Tet Doan Ngo (Mid-year Festival) is also known by its more rustic name - Festival to kill insects. This is one of the important traditional holidays of the Vietnamese people.

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Vietnam's special Mid-year Festival amid Covid-19 pandemic
Traditional tray of offerings for the Mid-year Festival. Photo: VnExpress

Hanoians go to the market early to buy sticky rice wine during the Mid-year Festival

This morning, June 14 (the 5th of the 5th lunar month), Hanoi people are busy buying sticky rice wine, fruits, and cake made of glutinous rice flour dipped in lye for the Mid-year Festival.

The Vietnamese Mid-year Festival is held at noon on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month every year. Tet Doan Ngo (Mid-year Festival), also known by its more familiar name, is the Tet holiday to kill insects. This is also an opportunity for people to worship and remember their ancestors.

Glutinous wine is one of the indispensable dishes on this day.  Photo: VOV
Glutinous wine is one of the indispensable dishes on this day. Photo: VOV

According to the ancient beliefs, many types of insects inhabit the human digestive system. If not eliminated, they will reproduce more and more and cause harm. The ancients often used foods with enough spicy, hot, sweet, sour, and bitter flavors to kill "insects" - worms, flukes, and parasites in the body. Glutinous rice or sticky rice wine is the perfect dish with all of these flavors - has been used.

Glutinous wine on
Glutinous wine on Mid-year Festival. Photo: VOV

The price of items for the Mid-year Festival has increased compared to normal days, on average a small package of sticky rice costs VND 10,000 - 50,000 (US$0.43 - US$2.17) depending on the weight.

Litchi and plums are typical summer fruits that are favored on the Doan Ngo New Year offerings.  Photo: VOV
Litchi and plums are typical summer fruits that are favored on the Mid-year Festival offerings. Photo: VOV

According to folk beliefs, harmful parasites lurking in the human digestive system will usually "appear" on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month. At that time, people can eat sour, acrid foods or fruits to get rid of them.

Vietnam's special Mid-year Festival amid Covid-19 pandemic

In the past few days, witnessing the armed forces, medical doctors as well as young volunteers who are daily fighting against the Covid-19 pandemic, the people of Con Son Community Tourism Village, Binh Thuy district, Can Tho city, have joined hands to pack more than 1,000 small pyramidal glutinous rice cakes, coconut leaf cakes, especially cakes made of glutinous rice flour dipped in lye, to give to the "frontline soldiers" on Mid-year Festival. This activity also aims to preserve the culture of the Mid-year Festival, so that everyone can feel more cozy and enjoy cakes when they are not reunited with their families.

Photo: VOV
People make cakes on Mid-year Festival. Photo: VOV

According to Le Thi My Luong, a member of Con Son Club, for Vietnamese people, Mid-year Festival is a very special and important holiday, an occasion for families to gather together. This year's Mid-year Festival has come, but the force on duty has not been able to celebrate the festival because of the task of keeping the peace for the city and the community. Con Son people want to show their love through each cake, especially small pyramidal glutinous rice cakes to encourage and cheer the soldiers.

Vietnam's special Mid-year Festival amid Covid-19 pandemic
Each Con Son resident contributes some ingredients. Photo: VOV

When the Covid-19 pandemic is a distant memory, on Mid-year Festival on the 5th of the 5th lunar month every year, visitors will book a tour to Con Son Community Tourism Village, learn and make their own traditional cakes for the ceremony tray. However, this year, the activity to welcome tourists was halted, and the people of Con Son put their heart into wrapping cakes to send to the frontline against the pandemic.

Upon receiving the gifts of the people of Con Son, the dedicated frontline workers could not hide their emotions. The hot cakes delivered to the hands of the forces are not only valuable in kind but also contain the love, sharing and trust of the people. Pham Hoang Minh Hieu, An Thoi ward, performing duties at the checkpoint of Co Bac - Chom Yen said: "It has been more than 2 weeks, the force here rotates 3 shifts, administer 24/7 availability. sharing from relatives, from food to medical equipment. On the occasion of the Mid-year Festival, there was also a bit of homesickness, but everyone was determined to stay on duty."

"Today we received these little cakes made of glutinous rice flour dipped in lye, we feel very happy, very touched. This activity gives me strength. I am here to ensure the control of the pandemic situation in Can Tho city. We will join with Can Tho city in determination to win the Covid-19 pandemic," Hieu said.

The checkpoints receive cakes filled with love from the people of Con Son.  Photo: VOV
The checkpoints receive cakes filled with love from the people of Con Son. Photo: VOV

The cakes that come on the occasion of the Mid-year Festival this year, in addition to increasing the "fighting" strength for the frontline forces, also have a great morale-boosting meaning. The work of the people of Con Son Community Tourism Village clearly shows the solidarity and cooperation of the people of Can Tho with the functional forces, helping them feel secure in performing their tasks and quickly repelling Covid-19.

Origin of Tết Đoan Ngọ (Mid-year Festival)

The Mid-year Festival comes from folklore. This parable has many different versions. Accordingly, a year when farmers were celebrating because of the good harvest, insects came and ate away the harvested fruit and food.

The villagers had a headache and did not know how to solve this pest problem, suddenly an old man came from afar, claiming to be Doi Truan. He showed how for people in each house to set up a simple offering consisting of pyramidal glutinous rice cakes and fruit.

The people followed, and after a while, the insects flew away. The old man also added: The insects every year on this day are very aggressive, every year on this day, just do what I told you to treat them. The people were grateful to thank him, but the old man was gone.

To commemorate the above incident, people set this day as the 'Festival to kill insects', some people call it 'Tết Đoan Ngọ' (Mid-year Festival), because the worship time is usually at midday.

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Rosie Nguyen