Ancestor worship is a solemn and essential ritual for each family of Vietnamese. This ritual reflects the respect and gratitude of the descendants to their ancestors. In each family, there is an altar which is often situated at the most solemn and highest position in the house. For Vietnamese, the deaths live in another world which is invisible. That’s why in each worship day, people put fruits, foods, flowers in front of the altar to express their respect and memory to the deaths. Each family has certain dates of worship, usually the death anniversary dates of the death people in each family; however, every Vietnamese family has common days for worship such as the first day of the lunar month, the full-moon day of each lunar month and especially the Tet Holiday. In the Tet Holiday, each family will prepare a meal including cooked rice, a boiled chicken, and various kinds of food. Then these foods are put in a small tray and put in front of the ancestor altar. The host of the family (usually the man) will perform a solemn ritual in order to show the respect to the death and pray for health, luck, happiness and wealth in coming year. After that, the whole family will gather together to have a cozy year end party. If you are invited to such a party, don’t ever refuse and remember to bring with you some lucky money for the children and the old ones since that would be a good chance for you to get to know more about Vietnamese and their lifestyle.
At the family level, the eldest son will be responsible for keep the family name going on and it is him who will be spiritually accepted to be responsible for his ancestor and parent worship when they pass away. Therefore, the big role does not only falls on the man’s shoulder but on his wife’s shoulder as well. The man will play as a lead of the family and facilitate all things related to the worship, his wife is not only responsible for give a birth of at least one son but implement all things related to the worship assigned by her husband.
Attending a worship ceremony, you will normally see female in the kitchen preparing all things, men will normally be at the guest area to welcome guests and waiting for the worship hour.
The ancestor worship ritual is not only expressed in each family, but also expressed in the community. At village level, it is expressed more clearly in the rural areas of Vietnam where each village has a communal house which worship specific god of each village (Thành Hoàng). Thành Hoàng is the person who protects the village. Each village has to worship a Thành Hoàng God in order to wish for luck, wealth and happiness and also to show their respect to the person who has been protecting them.
At national level, Vietnamese people worship Hung King, the first King of Vietnam. March 10th of lunar year is the anniversary date when people from various provinces gather at Hung Temple in Phong Chau, Phu Tho province – a Northern mountainous area of Vietnam to join in the anniversary. Besides, Viet people also worship the four immortalities include Tan Vien, Thanh Giong, Chu Dong Tu and Lieu Hanh. For Vietnamese, each of them represents a specific desire of human being. Tan Vien (or Son Tinh) represents the desire for overcoming natural calamities like flooding, Thanh Giong represents the anti-invasion spirit, Chu Dong Tu represents a wealthy life, and Lieu Hanh represents a spiritually happy life.
Vietnam is not the only country which has the ritual for ancestor worship; however, the ritual of Vietnam is surely different from that of other countries in the same region and in other countries in the world. If you have visited many countries with many kinds of customs, Vietnam will likely to be different and surprise you.