Having lasted for generations, Tết Đoan Ngọ (Mid-year Festival) is a part of Vietnamese culture, which is no less important than the Lunar New Year. As being passed by the ancestors, the worship ceremony is usually conducted at dawn on May 5 in the Lunar calendar, but in fact, the official time is at midday. It is explained by the meaning of the name “Đoan Ngọ,” in which “Đoan” means the beginning, “Ngọ” means the hour of the Horse falling in the period from 11:00 to 13:00.
The Mid-year Festival takes place in the middle of the year as it is the season-changing period when it’s the hottest days that insects take the chance to reproduce and develop, causing diseases to humans, animals, and plants. The ancients celebrated this Festival with the concept of praying for luck to dodge accidents, for peace and a good harvest. Therefore, this Festival is also known as the Insect killing Festival.
Below are some traditional offerings in the Mid-year Festival:
Like many other rituals, a fruit tray is indispensable on the ancestor altar in every Vietnamese family. Depending on each region’s beliefs, the offerings to grandparents and ancestors on the Mid-year Festival might differ. The fruit tray will usually have grapefruit, lychee, mango, plums, watermelon and rambutan.
Sweet Fermented Rice Pudding (Rượu Nếp)
In the Mid-year Festival, each family’s fruit tray might be different, but a glutinous-rice wine dish is a must. There are words the elders say that the first and must-have dish on this day is sweet fermented black rice; other offerings come later, only then the Mid-year Festival is completed.
The Vietnamese ancestors believed that flavorful foods with all sour, spicy, sweet taste and warm, hot properties could kill parasites and bacteria in the body. Therefore, sweet fermented rice pudding is the one dish that fits all requirements.
Though it appears in all three regions of Vietnam, each place has its own unique recipe. This spicy, aromatic dish captures the hearts of not only adults but also children.
Tro cake is a cake that is believed to treat all kinds of diseases. The cake is dark yellow because the main ingredient of the cake, glutinous rice, is soaked in cooking lye water, wrapped in banana leaves and then boiled. There are some choices for the filling such as savory with meat, sweet or just plain cake.
The cake is soft, light in taste and cool in the property. It is usually eaten with honey or sugar. Each region will have a different type of cake wrapping, such as oblong and pyramid shapes.
According to ancient beliefs, there is strong yang energy on this day, so eating duck meat will help cool the body down. This is a popular dish of Central and South region.
Rice Balls Sweet Soup (Chè Trôi Nước)
Rice balls sweet soup is not only popular on Tết Hàn Thực (Cold Food Festival) on March 3 in lunar calendar, but it is also a popular dish at the Mid-year Festival.
According to folklore beliefs, dishes made from glutinous rice have the ability to kill insects well. And of course, rice balls sweet soup is on the list. Usually, the fruit tray is accompanied by a bowl of rice balls sweet soup on the ancestor altar.
This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt