My Journey to America – Vietnamese Culture and Traditions

Religions and Superstitions

The most popular organized religions are Buddhism and Catholicism. Some house holds, such as my godparents, respected both religions. My godparents had statues of Buddha and Mother Mary in their living room. They wanted to be on the good side of both religions.

Regardless of faith, most Vietnamese follow the philosophies of Confucianism and Taoism. These philosophies such as honoring our ancestors during Giỗ are our way of life. We also believe what goes around comes around. Lend a helping hand. Someday when we need help, someone else will lend us a helping hand.

Superstition is almost a religion of its own. Many Vietnamese are superstitious. We believe in ghosts, life after death, black cats, and things that go bump in the night. My godmother, Mẹ Ðức, believed I was her re-incarnated daughter. I do too.

My parents have five girls and two boys. For Vietnamese, the five consecutive girls would be called “Ngũ Long Công Chúa” which means five Dragon princesses. Having “Ngũ Long Công Chúa” will bring luck to the family.  If there are five consecutive boys, the five boys would be called “Ngũ Quỷ” which means five little devils.  I don’t think that is too lucky.  Although, my parents did not have 5 consecutive girls, they still saw us as “Ngũ Long Công Chúa”.

Treatment for sickness is based sometimes on superstitions that have been passed on from generations.  When I was three, I had a very high fever. Mẹ Ðức tried many different ways to help reduce my fever.  One of the ways was coin rubbing or “Cạo Gió”.  Cạo Gió means getting rid of the bad air or excess wind and restore balance to the body.

I remembered being pricked with a pin on a few fingers. Mẹ Ðức pricked my fingers to release what was known as bad blood from my body.  She tried everything she knew in alternative medicines but my fever would not go down.

Taking a bath when I was sick was a “no-no”.  I was told that if I touch water my sickness will be worse. As a kid for me, no bath was a great concept.  I didn’t complain or questioned it one bit.

Needless to say, my fever got worse and I went into shock.  My parents immediately took me to the nearest private hospital.  This hospital practiced western medicine. My parents and Mẹ Ðức witnessed the nurses and doctors dunking me into a bathtub full of icy cold water.  They were frozen with fears. Water was the last thing they had envision for me to be surrounded.  It was something Mẹ Ðức had kept me from when I was sick.  My parents entrusted their faith in the doctors and western medicine. They permitted the bath to be completed.

My parents and Mẹ Ðức observed solemnly as the doctor soaked me in a tub of cold water.  After being dunked and toweled off, my fever broke. The doctor sent me home the very same day.  It was an eventful day. When it came down to life and death, my parents were willing to go out of their comfort zone. It was a dramatic day for my parents and Mẹ Ðức.

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