Vegetarian festival

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Vietnamese show their respect to mothers in the Vu Lan festival by wearing roses and going vegetarian

The Vu Lan festival allegedly dates back to an Indian sutra which was translated into Chinese in the Third Century.

The sutra told the story of a pair of Buddhist disciples who enlisted the help of Buddhist monks to save their mother's soul.

Legend has it that the woman had been reborn as a hungry spirit due to her evil deeds in life. The two believers gathered an assembly of monks to make offerings to her spirit and ease her suffering.

This developed into the Vu Lan festival, which thrived in Vietnam, where people continue to believe that the spirits of the dead return home to feast on this day.

Families all over Vietnam still put out offerings and burn incense for the dead.

When the incense burns out (and the spirits have "feasted" on the offerings) children are allowed to eat the fruit and other food on the altars.

In the last hundred years or so, the holiday has also taken on a special meaning for living mothers, and the festival has now become something like a Vietnamese Mother's Day.

The Vu Lan festival falls on the seventh full moon of the lunar calendar. This year, it will be held on August 14.

Buddhists and non-Buddhists wishing to express their gratitude and love toward their mothers pin roses to their clothing and head for the pagodas.

Shang Palace Restaurant
1st floor Norfolk Mansion,
17-19-21 Ly Tu Trong Street, District 1
Tel: (08) 3 823 2221

Van Canh Restaurant
184 Calmette Street, District 1
Tel: (08) 3 829 4963

Viet Chay Restaurant
339 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street, District 3
Tel: (08) 3 526 5859

People with living mothers wear red roses; those with deceased mothers wear white roses. The rose is a symbol of love and sharing among parents and their children, regardless of social background.

Vegetarian cuisine plays an important role in commemorating the departed spirits. As a result, the town's vegan restaurants (who typically only see traffic during the end and middle of the lunar month, when Buddhists avoid meat) are pulling out all the stops.

This August, Shang Palace Restaurant has rolled out a special menu in honor of the upcoming holiday.

The dishes are made from fresh and delicious vegetables and flowers "” such as deep-fried seaweed rolled with turnips, carrots and shimeji mushrooms, stir-fried luffa with wood ear mushrooms, steamed broccoli and asparagus served with pumpkin sauce and fried taro rolls with mango sauce.

Van Canh Restaurant has created a special vegetarian buffet for the event and decked the restaurant out in hay bales and other countryside nostalgia.

The vegetarian buffet will include 60 different dishes and continue through August 29. The restaurant serves lunch from 11:00 to 13:30 and dinner from 17:30 to 21:00.

Adults can get in for VND130,000 for lunch and VND160,000 for dinner. Children get in for VND80,000.

The Viet Chay Restaurant, on the grounds of Vinh Nghiem Pagoda, has become a regular standby for Buddhists during the bi-monthly vegetarian days "” the first and fifteenth of every lunar calendar month. In addition to its regular menu, this restaurant plans to create a series of new dishes in honor of the upcoming holiday.

The restaurant is open from 11:00 to 14:30, for lunch, and 17:00 to 21:30, for dinner. Adults will be admitted for VND120,000; children will get in for VND60,000.

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