Death Anniversary in Vietnam

Death Anniversary in Vietnam – A Custom Of Vietnamese People

Most of Vietnamese families celebrate death anniversaries every year. Death anniversary in Vietnam is a ceremony offering rice to dead person’s soul. Most of Vietnamese people believe that after passing away, human beings still exit soul parts. They think alive people eat and drink, either dead people’s soul do. Therefore, every year, they hold death anniversaries to invite their dead family members’s souls to come back home to enjoy delicious foods and drinks as well as meet alive members.

Depending on family’s economic condition, anniversary is big or small. Death anniversaries of grandparents and great grandparents are bigger than others. Rich families slaughter cows and pigs, poor families slaughter chickens and ducks. Families in South Vietnam usually make “It” cakes and “Tet” cakes.  “It” cake is a pyramid sticky rice cake filled with green bean paste or coconut meat and sugar. “Tet” cake is a cylindric sticky rice cake filled with banana, green bean paste and pork belly. Families in North Vietnam usually make “Chung” cakes (square glutinous rice cakes filled with green bean paste and pork belly).

People usually prepare for a death anniversary some months before the day. They raise cows, pigs, chickens and ducks. Death anniversary happens for two days. On the first day, all family members and neighbors gather to prepare for the second day – main day of the anniversary. In the morning men slaughter cows, pigs, clean tables and chairs, arrange fruits and flowers on altars. Women slaughter chickens, ducks and cook many delicious main dishes and cakes. The atmosphere is really warm, busy and exciting. In the afternoon, foods are placed up on altars and tables. In front of the house, there is a tray for homeless souls. In the house, there is a tray for gods supporting land and house. The other trays are for ancestors and the dead person’s soul. After finishing arranging everything, the person having highest position in the family stands in front of the main altar, pours wine, burns incenses and prays to invite the dead person’s soul and ancestors back to enjoy the death anniversary. In the ceremony, the head of the family pours wine more twice and pour tea three times. Everybody waits until the incenses burn out. It’s time for everybody to sit around tables and enjoys some foods and drinks. They talk to each other and laugh happily. In the evening, everybody eats rice soup (Vietnamese congee with chicken or duck). They also sing karaoke or play cards freely until midnight.

Death Anniversary In Vietnam 1

Family members gather and eat on the first day of Death Anniversary in Vietnam

On the next day, the death anniversary happens more solemnly than on the first day. There are more guests and far relatives. They usually come with wine, fruits, cakes or anything as a gift. Those offerings are placed up on the altars. At the beginning of the ceremony, the children and grandchildren stand seriously in front of the main altar. After pouring wine, burning incenses and praying to invite the dead person’s soul and ancestors back to enjoy the party, the head of the family talks about good characters of dead person’s soul. Then the children and grandchildren kneel and kowtow the souls.

After all, everybody is served lots of foods. While eating and drinking, everyone usually talks about dead person, relative relationships, business, marriage. Thank to this occasion, the alive people learn good characters of the dead person, the young recognize relatives, business becomes more effective, boys and girls understand each other more clearly. The anniversary finishes, the relatives and guests come back home with some “It” cakes or “Chung” cakes offered by the host.

Death Anniversary In Vietnam 2

Lots of foods are served on the second of Death Anniversary

Vietnamese Cylindrical Sticky Rice Cake Or Banh Tet 3

In South Vietnam, they usually make “It” cakes and “Tet” cakes to gift people who are invited to the Death Anniversary

If in the West, birthdays are important, in the East, death anniversaries are important. Death Anniversary in Vietnam shows “Uong nuoc nho nguon” (drink water remember source) spirit. It’s a chance to family members and neighbors gather in a year.


  1. Natalie April 16, 2019
    • Tracy Do April 22, 2019

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