By Văn Châu
BÌNH DƯƠNG — Besides Tết (Lunar New Year), the biggest festival for Buddhists in Việt Nam is the Tết Nguyên Tiêu or Rằm Tháng Giêng (First Full Moon of the New Year).
It is also a great opportunity foreigners to experience Vietnamese culture.
On this occasion, thousands of vistiors flocked into Thủ Dầu Một City in Bình Dương Province, located near HCM City, since the 13th of the first lunar month to celebrate the first full moon on the 15th day of the lunar calender.
Most Vietnamese and other Buddhist countries in Asia believe the First Full Moon of the New Year is the most important full moon in the year.
On the 15th day of the first lunar month, people are supposed to go to pagodas and pray for their family members and friends.
One of the more famous destinations for pilgrims in the southern region is the Thiên Hậu Pagoda in the centre of Thủ Dầu Một City.
Its main ritual is a procession carrying a Bà Thiên Hậu (older, respected woman) statue on a palanquin through the town. The Bà Thiên Hậu palanquin is accompanied by dozens of dragon dance troupes from Bình Dương, HCM City, and neighbouring provinces.
During this festival, the pagoda attracts thousands of people each day who come to pray for luck, happiness and success. It is common to see people eating vegan food and drinking water on the special day. Obatining a peaceful mind and luck for the coming year are the general purposes.
Trần Thành Nam, from Tây Ninh Province, said: “I have been visiting pagodas in Bình Dương and praying for peace since I was a child with my parents, and now I take my wife and my son here every year. I feel happy and peaceful after coming here.”
Visitors can also enjoy dozens of dragon and kylin dance troupes performances during the festival.
On the evening of the 15th day of the first lunar month, which fell on February 19 this year, tens of thousands of local residents and visitors this year flocked to the streets around Bà Thiên Hậu Temple, the oldest and most famous temple in Bình Dương, to celebrate the first full-moon day in the Year of the Pig.
Free food, motorbike repair
The First Full Moon of the New Year Festival in Bình Dương was more special than in other provinces and HCM City because local businesses and residents give visitors free food, water and motorbike repair services.
Phan Thị Lựu, from An Giang Province, said: “In some provinces, festivals are the best chance for local businesses to increase the price of food and water. But in Bình Dương Province, the businesses and resident do the opposite. They give visitors free food, water, iced tea, sugarcane juice, tissues, and motorbike repair services.”
“Every year I come to Bình Dương to enjoy the festival, and I feel very comfortable.”
Phạm Thị Thy, the owner of a sugarcane juice store in Bình Dương, said: “Since 2015, I started giving free sugarcane juice and food to visitors on the 15th day of the lunar calendar. I do that because I think when I give free food and drink to pagoda visitors, it means the same thing when I go to a pagoda and pray for peace and luck. I also want to contribute to making Bình Dương Province a friendly province.” — VNS