May 5th Festival in The East Asian Cultural Region

The May 5th Festival is the festival happening on May 5th of the lunar calendar every year in the countries of the East Asian Cultural Region like China, Vietnam, Japan and Korea. The customs of the countries have common and unique points.

May 5th Festival in China


May 5th Festival is called Doan wu Festival or Doan Yang Festival by Chinese in order to commemorate the loyalist in the Warring States period named khuat Nguyen.

Chinese believe that on this day, the yang air is very strong, so they clean the house to welcome the good air into the house and carry out many other activities to bring health to humans.


Khuat Nguyen

At the end of the Warring States period, there was a great mandarin of So State called Qu Yuan. He is the loyalist of So State and also a famous poet. Legend has it that he is the author of the poem Ly Tao famous in ancient Chinese literature, expressing the sad mood because of the country going down. Because

of dissuading King So Hoai Vuong, at the end of his life, he was exiled by King Tuong Vuong (who succeeded the throne of So Hoai Vuong) to Giang Nam (South of the Yangtze River). He was disappointed and thought that he is a person living in the turbid time, sang like a crazy person all day, composed Phu Sa song and then hugged a stone slab plunging himself into the Mịch La River to suicide. To commemorate a patriotic, upright and honest man, every year, on the day he died, people organized the festival.

Luu Than – Nguyen Trieu

Luu Than and Nguyen Trieu are two people living in the Han Dynasty, on May 5th of the lunar calendar, they invited each other to go to the mountains to pick up drugs, met two fairies and got married. After half a year of living in fairyland with the fairy wives, the two asked to go home. It was impossible to Retain, two fairies had to let their husbands return home. Because the time in the fairyland is only half a year but a few hundred years on earth, the two men found scenery in their homeland so different; the acquaintances became the ancient people; the two men went back to the fairyland, but couldn’t. The two men left without seeing back.


Offering Khuat Nguyen

The ceremony offering Khuat Nguyen usually happens at about noon. The offering tray always has Zongzi cakes (Zongzi is a cone-shaped cake and wrapped of banana leaves; inside is sticky rice covering pork, green beans, lotus seeds, chicken egg yolk, dried shrimp, Chinese sausage, mushroom, pepper, cooking oil.). According to legend, after Khuat Nguyen had died, people made Zongzi cakes and tied them by five – color threads, then dropped into the river to offer Khuat Nguyen. Beside Zongzi cakes, on offering tray, there is also Com Ruou (Com Ruou is a kind of food and drink made by Incubating yeast and glutinous rice, not by distilling. Com Ruou works to kill parasites in the digestive tract.), fruit, roasted duck, even roasted port. After the ceremony, the family gathered to eat drink happily.

Racing Dragon Boat

The Chinese have Dragon Boat Racing custom on the annual Doan Ngo Festival. This is one of the most exciting customs of the Chinese. According to the legend, when hearing the news that Khuat Nguyen died, people immediately organized a team of rowing boats to row to the river to save him but failed. Later, each year on Doan Ngo Festival, people have organized a dragon boat race to show wishing Khuat Nguyen’s soul to be freed.

Wearing Aromatic Bag

Chinese usually wear aromatic bags on May 5th of the lunar calendar. This type of bag is made of cloth and five-color thread to sew. They are made into balls, tigers, etc. They contain fragrances used to chase centipedes and vermin that harm children. Chinese people also believe that wearing fragrant bags on Doan wu Festival can fight diseases and ward off evil spirits. People also hang the kinds of leaves containing essential oil in front of the house such as guava, lemongrass, eucalyptus and so on. This action has the effect of chasing insects, evil spirits. Those actions are related to the legend of Luu Than – Nguyen Trieu.

May 5th Festival in Vietnam


May 5th Festival is called Tet Doan Ngo (The festival of early at noon) Mung Nam Thang Nam (May 5th of the lunar calendar), Ngay Diet Sau Bo (Day to kill insects).

May 5th of the lunar calendar is the anniversary of the death of the national mother Au Co. Tet Doan Ngo is to commemorate her and ancestor.

Vietnamese also believe that on this day, yang air becomes the strongest of a year, so they prepare to welcome yang air and all the good things to them.

The festival also shows the desire to win insects that destroy crops, win all diseases caused by viruses, bacteria, parasites or bad ghosts.


One day after the crop, the farmers were about to celebrate for a bumper crop. However, the insects came to eat almost all the harvested rice, corn, and fruit. People worried, not knowing how to destroy them; Suddenly, an old man from afar came and introduced himself as Doi Truan.

He instructed the people in each house to make a simple ritual in which people just used Banh Tro (ash cake) and fruits, and then went to the front of the house to exercise. The people carried out according to the advice, and just a few moments later, the insects fell down. He also added that insects were very aggressive this day every year, so everyone should do like the words he had told; they would be destroyed. People were going to thank him, but he had gone away. To commemorate this event, the people named this day Tet Diet Sau Bo (The festival to kill insects), some people call it Tet Doan Ngo (In the Vietnamese language, Doan means to start, and Ngo is the time lasting from 11 AM to 1 PM. The ceremony starts at early Ngo time, so people call Tet Doan Ngo).


Offering ancestor

On Tet Doan Ngo, Vietnamese organize to offer God and gods in families, village common temples. In Northern Vietnam, on offering tray, there are usually Banh Tro. Banh Tro (ash cake) is made from sticky rice soaked in ash water before being boiled. It is wrapped by Chinese bamboo leaves or phrynium leaves and has a flat cylinder, about 15 cm long. Banh Tro is eaten with molasses. In addition, there is also a sweet soup of black bean, fruit, boiled duck, com ruou. In Southern Vietnam, people usually make Banh Xeo (A kind of pancake), Che Troi Nuoc (A kind of sweet soup is made from sticky rice, green bean and sugar; the cake has a round shape and is put in sugar water.).

Pick up drug leaves

On May 5th of the lunar calendar, people usually go to the garden to pick up kinds of leaves containing essential oil such as guava, lemongrass, eucalyptus and so on to heat with water to bathe or take a steambath. People usually take a bath in the morning. The bathing is to prevent and fight skin-disease and all bad things.

Bathe at the Islet

On this day teenagers in Mekong River Delta usually come to some islet whose bank has little mud to bathe. The most famous is Con Tien (Fairy Islet) in Ben Tre. This activity is related to the Khuat Nguyen legend and Water Splashing in Southeast Asia. On this day, people in Mekong Delta also go to the orchard; they themselves Pick up fruits and eat in place or bring back to offer to relatives.

May 5th Festival in Japan


In Japan, the May 5th Festival was originally called Tango no Sekku (a festival for boys) from the Nara Period (AD 710 – 794) and is celebrated on May 5th of the lunar calendar. When Japan transitioned to the solar calendar (1873), this festival was moved to May 5th of the solar calendar. In 1948, the festival was called Kodomo no Hi (Children’s Day) and was for both boys and girls and was a national holiday. The festival shows parents’ wish that their children would become strong and successful in life.


On this day, people hung the colorful flag of Koi fish throughout the streets and in front of the houses. Koi fish is a kind of pets having a lot in Japan. Koi fish has many nice qualities such as courage and strength. Under natural conditions, Koi fish usually wades backstream. In Japan, Koi fish is considered as a symbol of a man’s strong will and success. In the houses, people usually hung the picture that the boy or girl is riding Koi fish. People also hung armors and helmets.

In addition, the Japanese make Chimaki cake to offer gods and ancestors and eat on May 5th. Chimaki cake is made from sticky rice, peanuts, shiitake mushrooms, chickpeas, Chinese sausages, salted duck eggs, fatty meat, dried shrimp and is wrapped with banana leaves or bamboo leaves.

May 5th Festival in Korea


In Korea, May 5th Festival is called Dano festival. The Dano Festival is one of the three largest traditional festivals in Korea along with the Lunar New Year and the Chuseok Mid-Autumn Festival. The festival expresses the desire for favorable weather and bumper crops. Besides, the festival also shows the awareness of keeping and improve the health of Korean.


During the festive day, many special traditional ceremonies and performances take place. The most prominent in the Dano Festival is the Gwanno mask dance. This is a type of humorous traditional Korean pantomime performed on stages in crowded markets.

In addition, people also participate in folk games like the merry-go-round, a game that the girls like; wrestling, a game for the boys. In addition, people also eat nutritious traditional cakes like Suritteok and Yaktteok, which are made from rice and kinds of seeds. people take a bath with Iridaceae leaves to prevent skin-ill and ward off all bad things.

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