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[Video] Lanterns on the River at Saigon's Dieu Phap Pagoda

For Saigon’s Chinese community, the first full moon of the lunar year is an event of paramount importance. They believe that whatever you do to commemorate the occasion will have an overarching impact on a family’s luck for the rest of the year.

Because of this belief, Chinese families spend a lot of time at spiritual venues all over Saigon to pray for good luck through a range of activities. A visit to the local temple or pagoda is a common item on many Saigoneers’ to-do-list as they believe offerings – providing fresh fruits, and burning joss papers or incense – to their ancestors and heavenly deities could result in blessings for a new year.

At Dieu Phap Pagoda in Binh Thanh District, locals take this to another level with a full-fledged lantern festival, not unlike Japan's toro nagashi tradition. Every year, on important dates of the lunar calendar – such as the first full moon of the year or Vesak Day – the pagoda organizes a well-wishing ceremony with lanterns. Most participants are local Buddhist practitioners, but all are welcome to join in on the activities.

Upon entering the pagoda, visitors are given a paper lantern to write their name, along with some hopes for the new year. After a short blessing ritual conducted by monks, participants will light up their lanterns and float them down the nearby section of the Saigon River. Later in the night, a team of volunteers with boats will collect all dropped lanterns in order not to pollute the river.

A few weeks ago, Saigoneer visited Diep Phap Pagoda to take part in the festivities:

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