On the fifteenth day of Tet (called Ram Thang Gieng), the first full moon, there are ceremonies in Buddhist temples. This is considered the most auspicious day of the Buddhist year. “Paying homage to Buddha all year long is not as effective as praying on the 15th day of the first lunar month.” The devout flock into pagodas, their eyes stinging with the blue haze of incense. After prayers, shared blessed offerings from the temple keeper are stuffed into bags carried with them for that purpose. Over the years, this Buddhist sacred day has transformed into a holiday of other cults.
It is also called Tet Trang Nguyen or the feast of the first laureate. There is a legend associated with its beginnings: the emperor once staged a banquet on the full moon to which the most prominent scholars of the kingdom were invited. They drank exquisite liquor and each man composed a formal poem on a theme chosen by the emperor. On that day, many families celebrate Tet all over again by eating banh chung.
This is also called the Little New Year or full moon New Year and celebrated by farmers following an indigenous practice of welcoming Spring at the first full moon. Later, it became infused with Buddhist meanings.
The Viet-namese traditionally celebrated Tet from the fifteenth day of the twelfth month to the fifteenth day of the first month.
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Chuc Mung Nam Moi!
[Excerpted from Tet: The Vietnamese Lunar New Year by Huu Ngoc and Barbara Cohen]