Spring pilgrimage – an inevitable Vietnamese custom

When spring comes, Vietnamese people usually go on a pilgrimage at the beginning of the Lunar New Year. They go to the pagodas to pray for safety, health, good luck, prosperity and happiness during the year. Going to pagoda has become an inevitable custom of almost every Vietnamese during the first days of the new year. 

 Spring pilgrimage – an inevitable Vietnamese custom  - ảnh 1

On the first day of the new lunar year, pilgrims from across the country, regardless poor or rich, old and young alike, flock to pagodas. They choose to go to pagodas on the 1st day of the year as they believe that the transitional time between the old and the New Year is the time of harmony between yin and yang, earth and heaven, the time when one’s prayers are granted by the Gods and his ancestors. Sounds of bells and tocsins help people get rid of all worries and burdens in life, turning their hearts and minds towards Buddha.
Pilgrims may prepare a small tray of offerings to the deities. The offerings include fruits, flowers, beetles and areca nuts, some votives and changes. Some go to the pagodas with their bare hands, simply just to burn incenses and pray before Buddha statues. Head of Tran Quoc pagoda in Hanoi, Venerable Thich Thanh Nha explains ‘The offerings can be fruits, flowers, and pies, depending on each pilgrim. In Buddhism, only vegetarian food and offerings are allowed’.

People kneel down with their hands together in front of Buddha, Bodhisattva and Arhat statutes, sincerely praying for a new peaceful year with good lucks. Vietnamese people believe that going to the pagoda is not only to pray for good things for the coming year but is also the time for everyone to be reminded of the spirit life after the hardy months earning a living while paying tribute to the deities, according to Venerable Thich Thanh Nha. The Venerable highlights ‘People come to pagodas to pray for good fortunes. However, the prayers can only be granted once the pilgrims lead a good lifestyle, do good things for society. If a person only prays for good luck but they don’t correct their mistakes to become better, their prayers will not be granted’.

Going to pagodas in early spring is also a great chance for pilgrims to enjoy the fresh atmosphere of the New Year while contemplating on beautiful sceneries of nature in spring. On the first days of the New year, visitors keep flocking to Tay Ho temple in Hanoi where Mother Lieu Hanh is worshipped. They visit Tran Quoc pagoda to pray for good fortunes and the Temple of Literature to pray for their children to become well-educated and helpful for society. Nguyen Thi Loan from the northern province of Quang Ninh always visits Tran Quoc pagoda on the first day of the new Lunar Year. She says ‘I pray for our country to be wealthy and peaceful, everyone is happy and have a comfortable life. I’m a Buddhist follower and I hope that my children and grand-children will follow Buddhism teachings to lead an honest and useful life’.

No one knows if the Gods hear these prayers and wishes, but everyone believes in their tradition of going to the pagoda on New Year’s Day and sincerely praying all the best things for their family, society and nation.