Ullambana Festival or Vu Lan Festival is a festival that annually held on July 15th of lunar year. The main objective for the people to express their thankfulness and appreciation to their mother. Every year, on the full moon day of July, many people in Vietnam in general and in particular in Hoi An will go to pagodas to pray for the salvation of the people who passed away, especially for their mother to live long with them. In many temples in Hoi An, Vu Lan festival was held in warm sentiment when all hearts are devoted towards their parents as a gratitude for their parents’ giving birth and a settled position to them.
According to legend, Moggallana (Muc Kien Lien) is the disciple of Buddha who saw through that his mother was being ill-treated in the hell to because of the sin she made when she had been alive. He tried to use his power to give his mother rice but every time it approached near to her mouth then it suddenly became hot red charcoal and she could not eat any. He is really respectful to his mother and he wants to requite a favour to the giving birth person of him, that is the reason why he prayed to the Buddha to save his mother. The Buddha tell him that on the fifteenth day of lunar July he should put prepared offerings into a Vu Lan pot to worship the deity to pray for his mother and transfer fortune for her death’s soul, it is the best hope for him to help his mother to solve her evil karma and save her. Following to the instruction of the Buddha, Moggallana had saved his mother from the hell.
With this meaning, Vu Lan Festival is actually a festival of expressing gratefulness and appreciation of the children to their parents. At the same period, because it is also Full Moon Festival in Hoi An, Vu Lan festival has been localized and associated with the meaning of pardon for evil soul and perform universal salvation for everyone. The festival was organized in a very large scale as Phap Bao, Chuc Thanh, Phuoc Lam, Ngoc Cam. On this occasion, the temples and pagodas are decorated by very brilliant flags and banners. In the middle of the yard, there is usually an altar for Stratum Bodhisattva, and in four corners is four great Shenzhous of East, West, South and North. According to the custom, people will use blood tank to open the door of hell to pardon evil karma, play performance of Moggallana saving his mother, give the death’s soul by white rice porridge, set free for animal (bird, crab, fish, etc), release lanterns (drop on the river). The festival is really bustling and vibrant at night with many activities such as light dance ritual, offering clothes for monks and nuns, singing and dancing festival and many other entertainment activities that attracts so many Buddhists and tourists to be involved.
To remember to their parents’ favour, everyone will continuously set up his chest a red rose for their mother who was alive and a white rose if one has lost their mother.
Vu Lan festival has brought a deep sense of spiritual kindness, forgiveness and thankfulness. It is organized in a large scale with many special activities that brings local character and should be maintained every year to make diversity and attraction for the traditional festival of Hoi An ancient town.