A Celebration of Life
From our experience, it seems that the Vietnamese definition for funeral is a celebration of life. This was indeed the vibe we got in our neighborhood as the family across our ‘hem of a hem’ (alleyway of an alleyway) celebrated the death of the grandfather. The family owns a small fruit juice stand just outside of their house. However, for three full days they had to stall the business, as well as a few other businesses in the neighborhood.
Loud beating drums, an oboe-sounding horn and beautiful singing woke us on a Monday morning at 6:30am. It was a nice sound, but for working all weekend and getting that Monday morning rest was imperative – not this Monday. The music continued for about 20 minutes, then just as we were falling back to sleep, it started again. This was a continual ritual all day. They say the loud music is supposed to cast away the evil spirits. In addition, the funeral lasts for three days because of the chance that the person will possibly come back to life, said a Vietnamese friend. These superstitions are great to believe in and we really do respect them, but honestly, for living in a small alleyway neighborhood, it was quite annoying.
The last day of the funeral was the most exciting. A marching band full of men in marching band uniforms with their trumpets, trombones, base drums and more lined up outside of the house and played their hearts out to this precious soul. A man balanced a round table vertically on top of his head. The big finale of the evening was the show of the lady boys grinding on old men in the audience full of neighbors, family members and who knows whom else. Once we got home after work on Wednesday night, motorbikes and people crowding to see these lady boys perform blocked us in our house. Until 3:30am on Thursday, we could barely sleep to the beating drums and lady boys singing at the top of their lungs. However, as we woke on Thursday morning, the neighborhood was silent. They had taken the body away early in the morning and had an afternoon service with just a cappella singing. What a great way to celebrate life.