What does these names mean?
Literally,Tet refers to festival, Doan means the start, Ngo is the seventh animalof the Chinese zodiac- the horse. Doan Ngo festival is also known asTết sâu bọ (sâu bọ = worms, pests) or Tết tháng 5, to be celebrated onthe 5th day of the 5th lunar month.
The name “Tet sau bo” derivesfrom the fact that farmers, on this day, get rid of all pests to startgrowing their crops for the new season. Therefore, creatures and peoplemust become stronger in both their health and their souls to overcomethis. On this occasion, the whole family have to get up early and eatfermented sticky and fruits. The worshipping is held at noon, hour ofNgo. The tradition of eating dumplings, especially lye water dumplings,extends from the belief that the dumplings will cleanse one’s body ofany unwanted “parasites”.
Two irreplaceable dishes
The two traditional types of food to be eaten on this holiday are banh u and com ruou. Banh uis pyramidal sticky rice cakes wrapped in banana leaves. They are oftenstuffed with beans and banana leaves’ essence, creating its dominantflavor.
Com ruou,which literally translates as “rice wine,” are little balls offermented rice bathed in wine. Com ruou is associated with the mythtelling that a long time ago, there were two orphan brothers livingtogether in a small village. They were popular among the locals fortheir intelligence and kindness. Also, in that village, there were two snakes Thanh Xa and Bach Xa, which after long lives, turned into spirits. Falling in love with the brothers, theytransformed themselves into beautiful ladies to lure the men. Theirdesire soon became true, Thanh Xa got married the older brother and Bach Xa the younger.
They lived happily together until the men grew unhealthy each passing day,scared of daylight and lived in festering darkness. The localssuspected the presence of a bad spirit, and one day, luckily, a Taoisthermit passed by the village. After being told the affliction, heconducted some spirit type tests and found out that the men’s house hada case of the evils. Brewing a wine potion, he told the locals to feedit to the men. The brothers must eat the potion’s solids and liquids inthe early morning of the next fifth day of the fifth lunar calendar. As soon as the men tucked into their special breakfast, their wiveswere turned into their real appearance of snakes, before disappearingin a puff of smoke, freeing the brothers. Since that day, people haveeaten “ruou nep” on Killing the Insect Day, in the hope of driving awaybad spirits.
The process of making Com ruouis not quite complicated but time-consuming. In order to have good comruou in Doan Ngo Festival, the famers must harvest the reaped rice froma paddy, dried and pounded carefully to keep the most nutritious partof the rice. At first, the rice is steamed twice for about 30 minutesand left for a while to get cool. After that, It is mixed with yeast,before being left for two or three days to ferment, depending on theweather. Com ruou is eaten early on this day to fight the “worms” inone’s stomach.
Just try it, you will see that Com ruou brings youa strong and quite delicious taste. In the Vietnamese traditionalconcept, com ruou can kill any parasites in the body. Vietnamesepeople, from adults to kids, mostly like eating com ruou, yet, adultsare more inclined to gain its curing effects with a grain of salt.
Upto now, besides the Lunar New Year Holiday, Doan Ngo Festival plays asignificant role in every Vietnamese life for practical and holymeanings. Enjoying the atmosphere of Doan Ngo Festival, you will get toknow more about its value and spirits.