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