Vu Lan, or Vietnamese Mother’s Day, is the day for lost souls to go on a quest for mercy. It is the second largest annual traditional festival of Vietnam, after the Tet Holiday.
Ingrained in Asian culture, there’s a wonderfully interesting legend behind this festival, which dates back to early Buddhist teachings. It says that Muc Kien Lien, one of Buddha’s ten principle disciples, saw his late mother suffering the tortures of hell. Muc Kien Lien summoned all his spiritual powers to bring her a bowl of rice – but the food was burnt to ashes before she could bring it to her mouth.
When he returned to the physical world, he asked for Buddha’s guidance to help his mother and fulfill his duty as a son. Buddha advised him to collect a gathering of monks and devotees and get them to pray together. The combined prayers proved to be so powerful that they not only achieved the release of Muc Kien Lien’s mother, but also for countless other souls. Ever since, on the Vu Lan festival, the gates of hell are believed to be thrown open to give the tormented souls a 24-hour holiday.
Another solemn and beautiful tradition is for people who wish to express their gratefulness towards their mothers to go to a pagoda wearing a rose. Thousands visit pagodas on this day, with a red or white rose. Roses are symbols of love and sharing among parents and their children.
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