Cold Food Festival Vietnam (Han Thuc Festival) is a traditional festival held on March 3 of the Lunar Calendar. This is a time for family members to accumulate and memorize their ancestors.
Han means cold in Chinese, and Thuc means food. According to culturalists, the weather gradually warms up beginning with the third lunar month, which also marks the transition from spring to summer. People eat cold foods to commemorate this time of year.
On Cold Food Festival VIetnam, all family members, even those who live or work far away, will return home to make “banh troi” and “banh chay” together. They are two traditional Tet Han Thuc dishes in Vietnam.
Chinese people traditionally do not cook for three days beginning on the third lunar day of the third lunar month, instead eating cold food to commemorate a hero named Jie Zhitui who lived in the 7th century BC.
Jie Zitui was a famous statesman and a loyal follower of Chong’er (later Duke Wen) in Jin State (739 – 403 B.C.) in China during the Spring and Autumn Period (722 – 481 B.C.). At the time, Jin State was shattered by a series of murders involving the succession to the throne. According to China today, Chong’er was forced to flee to other states to avoid assassination because he was one of the state ruler’s sons and a possible heir to the throne.
Jie Zitui followed Chong’er and fled hither and thither for the next 19 years, doing whatever he could to support and protect him. Once upon a time, Chong’er was nearly starved to death when Jie Zitui appeared out of nowhere with some meat soup, saving the upcoming Duke’s life.
Chong’er wondered where and how Jie got the soup, and it turned out that Jie had made the soup by cutting a slice of muscles from his own thigh. Chong’er was deeply moved, and he promised to repay him later. Nevertheless, Jie was not the type to do this for monetary gain. Instead, he desired to assist Chong’er in returning to Jin State and assuming power, as well as to bring happiness to his countrymen and prosperity to the State.
Chong’er eventually took the throne and became Duke Wen of the Jin State; however, Jie resigned and avoided him. Duke Wen rewarded everyone who helped him during his exile except Jie Zitui, who he forgot about. When someone reminded Duke Wen of the life-saving soup, he remembered Jie Zitui, felt terrible for Jie, and wanted to compensate the loyal follower. He was disappointed to learn that Jie had moved out of town with his mother to a remote mountain.
The Duke sent hundreds of troops to seek the mountain for Jie, but they found nothing. Then one of Duke Wen’s officials suggested that if Wen set fire to the mountain in three ways at the same time, Jie Zitui would be forced out from the only direction that remained. Duke Wen followed the advice and set fire to the trees and grass. The fire was finally out after three days of burning, but it did not get Jie out of the mountain as expected. Jie Zitui and his mother were discovered dead in a hole, with a note beside them.
According to the note, Jie followed DukeWen in order to pursue a better life for the people and a stronger State of Jin, not for treasures or anything else, and he hopes Duke Wen will become a good ruler and bring prosperity to his people and state. Duke Wen was so saddened by Jie’s death that he declared three days of no fire in his state to honor Jie. Jiexiu County, which means a place where Jie Zituirested forever, was also renamed after Jie.
The lord was so enraged that he ordered his troops to construct a temple to Jie while also ordering the locals to refrain from cooking for three days and eat only cold food in order to remember him. These days were later dubbed Tet Han Thuc (Cold Food Festival), and they take place on Thursday, the third day of the third lunar month.
Although based on a Chinese legend, the Cold Food festival Vietnam has various meanings, with people traveling from all over the country to clean and decorate their ancestors’ graves.
When they return home, they place these cakes on their altar to honor their forefathers, wishing them a safe and happy new year, according to researcher Nguyen Anh Hong of the Academy of Journalism and Communication.
Cold Food Festival Vietnam’s Traditional Dishes
On that day, all members of the family, even those who live or work away from home, will gather to make “banh troi” and “banh chay” together. Banh troi and banh chay are two traditional Tet Han Thuc foods in Vietnam. “Banh troi” are spheres of glutinous rice flour with sugar pieces inside. “Banh chay” is larger than “banh troi” and contains sweet green bean paste instead of a piece of sugar inside. After everything has been completed, “banh troi” and “banh chay” will be placed on a tray on the altar to be offered to the ancestor.
In order to invite ancestors to the Cold Foods Festival, the householder will burn incense. After the ancestor worship liturgy, all families will share “banh troi” and “banh chay.” According to Vietnam Tourism, “banh troi” is usually mixed with coconut fibers and sesame; “banh chay” is connected with sweet broth.
According to Ms. Nguyen Anh Hong, the tradition of making these cakes has been around for a thousand years. She claimed that the Vietnamese legend of Mother Au Co included pure white trôi and chay cakes. Nguyen Bich Lien, 75, of Ninh Binh’s Tam Diep District in the northern city of Ninh Binh, said the ingredients for bánh trôi include 1kg of wet sticky rice, 100g of green beans, 5g of vanilla, two spoonfuls of arrowroot powder, white sugar, dried molasses, and coconut threads.