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  • Writer's pictureDeb Smithers

The Buddhist day, Vietnam



Love to those who have passed.


Walking around the old town of Hoi an always brings something different. Always something to surprise you, and make you smile, and on this one special day as I was strolling for my morning cafe su da, finding myself surrounded by color and tradition. Many of the stores along the market and river have beautifully dressed tables set outside the houses, stores, and restaurants. The table decorations really are a sight to see. They are all meticulously arranged with such pride. This begins the lead up to Tet which is the lunar new year from 20-26 Jan 3rd but on this on this day being 7 th Jan it comes with a divine meaning that I found quite moving to say the least.


From New Year's Day till this day, it relates to Buddha. It was a day that we send love out to all the people that died on the streets, alone. Souls who passed and did not have anyone to pray for their passing souls. We send respect, love, and gratitude to these souls and the belief they will bring forth good things into our lives.







The tables are dressed with an abundance of flowers, fruit, and incense. Next comes the rice and soups, a whole boiled chicken tied in what would look like some kind of yoga pose. There are big pieces of pork, rice, cake, colored cellophane candies, beer, and cigarettes. There are literally piles of printed fake money. These magnificent tables of blessings are a work of art perhaps with the locals paying particular attention to the detail of how they are transformed and they put a lot of pride in the finished product.


Propped up next to the table, made from Joss paper (thin cardboard) and so realistic, is a man's blue suit, paper shoes, and a paper bike, anything they think the one who has passed would like or need. You can get big paper cars, horses, boats, fancy dress, and even furniture made from stunningly decorated cardboard in hues of red and gold. For just one example a paper horse can be off 2 meters in Height. Then after paying worship, they burn it all, throwing it slowly onto the barrel of fire on the street, or outside the home. It's a beautiful belief that when you burn these things, the money and personal items, all are destined to be delivered to the ones that are now in the afterlife, which they believe is similar to our world where the dead need clothes, personal items, and special gifts.


This philosophy is actually adapted from Confucianism and Taoism, not Buddhism. The Buddhist Sangha issued a statement last year calling on people to stop burning Joss paper because not only does it waste money but harms our environment by omitting harmful gases. As Joss paper is made from paper that has not been recycled in a good way. It has been known to cause fires and many accidents each year. Acknowledging that the practice is an old tradition of the Vietnamese people, changing what belongs to belief and religion would not be easy but the VBS Executive Council and the state are currently wishing to implement bringing in mini-Joss items for the beginning of change. The introduction of mini joss offerings in the near future will make the practice greener and slightly safer.





The towns are lined by masses of vibrant yellow flowers, Cherry Blossom and Kumquat trees are in abundance to beautify and brighten up the home, with the Kumquat tree bringing prosperity to the home so to be seeing a man on a motorbike with a giant Kumquat tree resting on the seat is a normal sight to around town during this festive month.


This day was to be for the Budda. It was a day that we send love out to all the people that died on the streets, that had nobody else. We send respect, love, and gratitude to these souls and the belief they will bring forth good things into their lives. The VBS Executive Council and the state are currently wishing to implement bringing in mini-Joss items for the beginning of change.



Joss paper money is also referred to as incense paper or ghost, spirit money















Cambodian flag

7th Jan also carries the significance of this day as it is also marking the day in 1979 when Cambodians were liberated from the genocide. Could we only imagine how this must have felt on that very day? and RIP to all those who had been taken.







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