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Mùng 5 Tháng 5 – Tet’s Little Brother

Yesterday was Mung 5 Thang 5 (Tet Doan Ngo) - a Vietnamese half-year Tet celebration which takes place on the fifth of lunar May (the fifth day of the fifth lunar month). We take a closer look at this holiday to see whether it is the summer solstice of maleness (the yang), a day to memorialize Au Co or simply a day to kill pests.

Lunar May usually falls during the summer solstice which is believed to be the season with the greatest amount of yang (traditionally interpreted as the sun or maleness). This is also the period of the year when pests grow in great numbers in turn with changing of the seasons.

Pests usually come across as negative spirits and as the origin of diseases for both plants and humans. Many customs practiced during this holiday focus on praying for the health of crops, some of which call on ancestors for help.

This day is also the memorial day of the legendary mother in Vietnam’s creation myth - Au Co.

Across Vietnam, Tet Doan Ngo is celebrated with a wide range of culinary traditions.

The Muong cook a local specialty called banh khuc, which is steamed or fried fine sticky rice filled with crushed beans and sesame seeds.

The Kinh people eat ruou nep - a sweet, wine-like sticky rice dish – right after they wake up. Some believe that it kills the ‘pests’ in their bodies. This is the most common dish on Tet Doan Ngo, but each region has its own traditions.

Ruou nep. Image via leeizzy.

A common banh (leaf cake) on Tet Doan Ngo in the South is banh tro – made from sticky rice soaked in water mixed with plant ashes, served with sugar or honey.

Though less common than ruou nep, the people of central Vietnam consume duck-based dishes on this day. It is said that duck meat contains the yin element, which can balance out any excess yang. Steamed duck meat is served with fish sauce and ginger, bun mang vit or a plate of tiet canh vit.

Bun mang vit. Image via iheartcabramatta.

Another dish eaten on this day comes from Hue - che ke, an aromatic kind of dessert made from tenderly cooked millet in ginger syrup. This dish is served on a sesame rice cracker.

Che ke. Image via bepgiadinh.

Other customs include people bathing in herbs or hanging them along with cactuses above their front door to keep away pests.

Tet Doan Ngo is not only a day with many meanings, but also one of delicious food.

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