Tradition of making Chung cake for Tet

(VOVWORLD) -Making Chung cake for the Lunar New Year is an aged-old tradition of Vietnamese people. Chung cakes are meaningful gifts and an indispensible offering on the ancestral altars during Vietnam’s biggest festival of the year.
Tradition of making Chung cake for Tet - ảnh 1An old lady in Thanh Tri district makes Chung cakes. (Photo: vnexpress.net)

Legend tells us that when the 6th Hung King organized an ancestral worship 4,000 years ago, he assigned his princes to prepare offerings. He said he would cede the throne to whoever brought the best offering. The princes travelled through forests and dived in to the ocean to find precious products. Lang Lieu, the 18th prince, was the poorest son. He could not get precious and rare items for the ceremony. With available agricultural products such as glutinous rice, green beans, and pork, he made a Chung square cake, which symbolizes the earth, and Giay round glutinous rice cake, which symbolizes the sky.

Lang Lieu’s offering met Hung King’s desire, so he succeeded to the throne. Chung cake have since become a must-have item in ancestral worship, which illustrates the spirit of “remembering the source of the water we drink.”

Chung cake consists of sticky rice, pork and green bean, with all ingredients wrapped inside a leaf called Dong, which is similar to banana leaves. The round shape symbolizes the earth, while the ingredients represent plants, animals, and the wet rice civilization.

Tradition of making Chung cake for Tet - ảnh 2 Women makes Chung cakes with glutinous rice, green beans, pork, and Dong leaves. (photo: Ngoc Anh)

Dinh Thanh Tu, a Hanoian, says: “When the Lunar New Year comes, children joyfully watch adults making Chung cake. It’s a time of family reunion to prepare Tet together. When the children grow up, they make Chung cake with their children and repeat the custom. No nation in the world makes Chung cake as a worship offering. We give Chung cake as gift and eat it as a symbol of luck in the new year.”

Nguyen Thi Phuong is a villager of Dam village, a famous Chung cake village in Ha Nam province: “We select the best ingredients to make the cake. The stuff has green bean and mixed lean and fat pork. The cakes are boiled in 10 hours.”

The Chung and Giay cakes show the harmonious combination of the earth and sky and people’s wish of sufficiency, peace, and happiness. Pham Van Luan is a Dam villager: “Worship offering must have the cake to show gratitude to the ancestors. Every family must have Chung cakes to have the true feeling of Tet. Chung cake is a nutritious food, which can be stored for many days.” 

Nowadays, in some big cities, the business life of modern society prevents people from making the cake at home. However, the customs of worshiping ancestors with Chung cake never changes. It is the evidence of the Vietnamese loyalty and deep gratitude to ancestors.

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