Thank your lucky stars in Year of the Cat

Published: 16/02/2011 05:00



new year dawns, once again raising hope in people throughout the world – and
particularly in Viet Nam in this Year of the Cat.

followers rush to Quan Su Pagoda in Ha Noi to pray for good luck during the
Lunar New Year festival. Some festivities have been dismissed for being
overly-superstitious. (Photo: VNS)

In this
country, which is still predominantly agricultural, New Year celebrations, both
at the family and at the public level, still dominate the calendar at this time.
This is because, in the northern hemisphere, the return of Spring coincides with
the first day of the lunar calendar.

But some
people say a few of the festivities are too superstitious and irrelevant to
today’s society.

It is
estimated that in Viet Nam, most of the 8,000 or so public festivals throughout
the nation are held during the first weeks and months of Spring.

Vietnamese have been making offerings during this auspicious time for 3,000 to
4,000 years. They generally pray for their expectations to come true so they can
begin the year more on a more confident and re-assured footing.

Spring celebrations are also to say thank you to Nature Mother and the Earth and
Sky gods,” said Pham Duc Duong, president of the Association for South-east
Asian Studies in Viet Nam.

jostling – even chaos – at temples, pagodas and other holy sites at this time is
part of the game. Representatives from almost all Vietnamese families pay a
visit to a temple or pagoda carrying sticks of incense, fruit and other

Much of
the proceedings would be considered superstitious by Westerners and many
Vietnamese. Even the Buddhist sutras speak against the practice of telling
fortunes outside pagodas – and Vietnamese monks are the first to admit that the
practice is carried out more to help people feel peaceful in their spiritual

Thursday, the eighth day of the Year of the Cat, thousands of people gathered at
Phuc Khanh Buddhist Pagoda, which is a Ha Noi institution famous for a ceremony
said to deliver people from misfortune created by so-called “bad stars” (dang
sao giai han).

was not enough room for the thousands of devotees, so they parked, sat or stood
on the street in front of the pagoda to pray. Traffic was blocked at the area
and after the crowd left, waste appeared.

According to Vietnamese astrology, nine stars influence mankind. They are known
as La Hau, Tho Tinh, Thuy Dieu, Thai Bach, Van Hon, Ke Do, Thai Duong, Thai Am
and Moc Duc.

first six stars are considered “bad” because they can cause death, fights,
losses, sickness and accidents. However, the last three – Thai Duong, Thai Am
and Moc Duc – can bring “good” things, including happiness, money and marriage.

stars affecting one’s life in each year can differ, depending on the age and sex
of the worshipper, said PhD Nguyen De, a lecturer from HCM City Culture

He said
people in Viet Nam had long worshipped the Gods of the Stars to attract good
luck and minimise bad luck.

Le Quynh
Anh, 26, from Hai Phong City, said that last year she suffered a lot of bad
luck, including losing money, mobile phone, camera and falling into the sea. She
blamed it all on a star named Thai Bach, which is “known” to bring loss.

she felt that things would possibly have been worse if she had not attended a
“star” ceremony at a pagoda at the beginning of last year at a cost of
VND200,000 (US$10).

Thi Tach, 80, from Ha Noi’s Tay Ho District, said that each year she registered
at her hometown pagoda for the similar ceremony.

She said
she also took the precaution of registering the names, ages and gender of all
her family members for the ceremony – even though they did not have to attend.

doesn’t matter where you join-in the ceremony, at home or in big or small
pagodas. The most important thing is to pray sincerely and Buddha will bless
you,” she said.

Venerable Thich Thanh Tu, vice standing chairman of the Executive Council of the
Vietnamese Buddhist Sangha (Buddhist monkhood), said the rituals were not
mentioned in Buddhist sutras, but were part of original Vietnamese belief.

He said
pagodas organised star ceremonies to help people feel more peaceful because
their belief was so strong.

He added
that he was not sure if the rituals helped people minimise bad luck and that
many invested much money and time on the practice.

another popular festival, crowds flock to a temple to worship the Kings of the
Tran Dynasty in Nam Dinh City’s Loc Vuong Commune in northern Nam Dinh Province
on the night of the 14th day of lunar New Year, which fell yesterday.

Worshippers were not happy until they received the seal of one of kings on a
piece of cloth or paper. This is believed by many to bring fortune, especially
in careers. This is why many public officials attend.

Tran Huy Chien, a member of Tran family and head of the Tran temple keepers,
said the words on the seal simply provided blessings for everyone.

He said
there was nothing related to career promotion, even going so far as to say that
an official who was not up to the job would not be promoted, even if he or she
was given the seal.

president of the South-east Asian Studies Association in Viet Nam, said some
people needed to change their thinking about worshipping and joining festivals.

many people put small banknotes on altars, others spend much money on offerings
and then pray for wealth and good fortune. Many pay for superstitious rituals at
holy places.

All the
actions make our festivals less healthy, let alone waste time and money,” he

Tet holidays, Ha Noi People’s Committee Chairman Nguyen The Thao has warned that
offices and agencies not to spend their working time going to festivals.

He even
tightened inspections to catch those who used official cars to travel to attend

Nam News

Provide by Vietnam Travel

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