Cúng Mụ

Thôi Nôi (“leaving the cradle”) is celebrated after a child’s Đầy Năm (“full year”). On this occasion as well as on the child’s Đầy Tháng (“full month”), a Lễ Cúng Mụ is held to express gratitude to Bà Chúa Đầu Thai (“Goddess of Rebirth”) and the twelve Bà Mụ (“Twelve Midwives”) and ask for their continued blessings.

According to Việt lore, the Twelve Midwives are deities tasked with molding every human being at creation. There are different explanations on how this task is divvied up. One explanation holds that each Bà Mụ is responsible for specific physical, mental, or spiritual aspects. Another is that they take turn, each assuming the entire task for a year, over a twelve-year cycle. In some explanations, the Midwives’ influence extends beyond birth, through a child’s first twelve years.

Dishes for a Lễ Cúng Mụ should consist of twelve portions, one for each of the Midwives, plus a larger portion for the Goddess of Rebirth. The portions can be plated individually or arranged on the same platter. The choice of dishes can vary according to the family’s means and dietary observances. As with any lễ cúng, two lit candles and incense sticks complete the offering.

Photos by EmCi

Flowers and Fruit Tray

The plums for Noodle's thôi nôi were picked from a plum tree in her parents' backyard.

The plums for Noodle's thôi nôi were picked from a plum tree in her parents' backyard.

Wine Cups

These same cups were used by Noodle's great-grandmother for the thôi nôi of Noodle's dad, aunts, and uncles.

These same cups were used by Noodle's great-grandmother for the thôi nôi of Noodle's dad, aunts, and uncles.

Xoi Bap

Sticky rice with mung bean, corn, fried shallots, and a dusting of coconut and sugar.

Sticky rice with mung bean, corn, fried shallots, and a dusting of coconut and sugar.

Goi Tom

Shredded jicama, carrot, and lychee salad with steamed shrimp, on shrimp crackers.

Shredded jicama, carrot, and lychee salad with steamed shrimp, on shrimp crackers.