Cold Food Festival

The Cold Food Festival is a festival that happens on March 3th of the lunar calendar in China, Northern Vietnam and the Chinese community around the world. The purpose of this festival is to remember a man named Giới Tử Thoi, a loyal, living in the Jin Dynasty (266 – 420 BC) in China. It is called the Cold Food Festival because in the old days at this festival people did not use fire and only ate cold food. Today the custom of not using fire and having to eat cold food is gone, but the festival still happens in some of the mentioned areas.

Cold Food Festival


in Jin Dynasty (266 BC – 420 BC), Prince Trùng Nhĩ, who was in Jin country, had to leave the country in exile. Then there was a man named Giới Tử Thôi following the prince to help him. One day, on the way to escape, the food ran out, Giới Tử Thôi had to cut a piece of his thigh meat, cooked it with rice so that the prince ate. When the prince finished eating, he asked and knew that, being deeply grateful. Giới Tử Thôi followed the prince for nineteen years, together experiencing many dangerous trials and tribulations. Later, Prince Trùng Nhĩ returned the country and became a king of Jin country named Tấn Văn Công. Then he awarded very good rewards to those who had merit in the time he had fled away but he forgot about the merit of Giới Tử Thôi. After that, the king also ordered to stick a paper sheet on the gate of the citadel to inform that if anybody had helped the king before but had not been awarded, they would have come to receive. A neighbor of Giới Tử Thôi named Giải Trương advised him to go to receive the award. He only smiled, then his mother also advised him but he does not agree. He said to her Prince Trùng Nhĩ was up the throne, which was the idea of Got because he is a good man, helping the good king was his duty. Giới Tử Thôi ‘s mother though he said right and advised him to look for a forest mountain area to live. Giải Trương informed the king and took him to Giới Tử Thôi’s house. when the king arrived at the house, Giới Tử Thôi had carried the mother on the back away to a mountain. The king asked everybody and knew that Giới Tử Thôi and his mother was living in Điền Sơn Mountain. The king ordered soldiers to look for them but did not meet. At last, the king thought that Giới Tử Thôi was a filial child if the king had ordered to burn the forest, he would have taken the mother to get out. Thinking so, the king ordered to burn the forest. However, both the mother and the child did not still get out and were killed because of the fire. The fire was off, the soldiers saw 2 bone sets under a willow tree. The king ordered to burry the bones at the foot of the mountain and changed the name of the mountain into Giới Mountain and built the temple right there. That day was the third of March of the lunar calendar. Afterward, people in the country remembered that Giới Tử Thôi died of fire, every year on this day, they did not use fire and ate the food cooked previously and hung a willow branch in front of the houses and called this day Tết Hàn Thực (Vietnamese: Thực means food, Hàn means cold).


Since Giới Tử Thôi died, every year, on March 3rd of the lunar calendar, the people all over China have organized the Cold Food Festival to remember a loyal and honest man. However, in Hán Age, Prime Minister Tào Tháo ordered to give up eating cold food because he thought that if the old and children did not eat the food cooked, they would be ill. Since then, people have used fire again in the cold food festival. Some provinces in North China have been still carried out this festival on March 3rd. The other people in China have combined the Cold Food Festival and Qingming Festival into one day (the fourth or the fifth of April of the solar calendar).


In Vietnam, Việt (Kinh) people in Northern Vietnam organize Cold Food Festival on March 3rd of the lunar calendar despite people still use fire on this day. The habit of the families is using rice flour, green beans, sugar to make Bánh Trôi and Bánh Chay (Bánh Trôi is round, the outside is white rice flour, inside is sugar. Bánh Chay is flatter than Bánh Trôi, the inside is green beans, Bánh Chay is put in sugar water). Making Bánh Trôi and Bánh Chay is a feature of the Cold Food Festival in Northern Vietnam. The Northern people also call this festival Bánh Trôi – Bánh Chay Festival. The Chinese Vietnamese community in Chợ Lớn area of Ho Chi Minh City and some other places holds the Cold Food Festival on the same day as Qingming Festival.

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