On Ram Thang Bay (full-moon day), it is taboo for Vietnamese people to purchase clothes, unless they are for the dead, based on the concept that life on the earth is the same as in the hades.
Ram Thang Bay is the second most important festival in Vietnam after Tet, Lunar New Year. It takes place on the 14th to 15th of the seventh lunar month, and is a time to give thanks and praise to parents and ancestors. Its most important function though is to help lost souls by pardoning and looking after them.
According to a long-lasting traditional customs of the Vietnamese people, the Lunar July full-moon day is the day for " pardoning homeless souls". This is the only full-moon day of the year when worshiping to ancestors is only of ceremonial meaning, while the main purpose of this day is much greater and nobler. A longtime ago, it was a practice that on this day not only pagodas but also each family, depending on its wealth, had to make a vegetarian meal to pray to Cod for commuting prisoners, or helping the lonely and homeless deceased find the way home. In short, the Lunar July Full-Moon Day is the day for destitute, homeless or wandering souls. The vegetarian meal includes congee, popcorn, boiled sweet potatoes, salty sesame, rice pancakes, fruit, personal belongings made of paper and gosh money.
After the praying and worshiping ceremony, the vegetarian meals, paper hammocks, parasofs and paper elephants are placed at cross-roads for children and beggars. Everybody believes that not only the living but also the homeless dead can eat to satisfy themselves and be consoled on this day. The typically Buddhist kindness can be felt everywhere in Vietnam, even in the most distant and remote areas. In many regions, the July full-moon day is considered as the mid year Tet festival. Every family prepares a big feast and makes ceremonial offerings, which are almost the same as on Tet festival. The urban life style has become too busy, leaving not much time for festivals and ceremonies. However, according to the elders, there used to be 5 to 7 flat baskets full of vegetarian dishes put around Dong Xuan and Bac Qua Markets on this day. These are the contributions made by people living around the markets and market traders wishing to do something out of charity.
On July moon-full day, very solemn worshiping and prayer ceremonies are also held at pagodas by Buddhist priests. Pagoda altars are laden with flowers, fruit and vegetarian meals that are prepared by pagodas and disciples. The July full-moon day is therefore not only of noble meaning, but also of materialistic character for the worlds of both the living and the dead, according to the samara theory of Buddhism.