Tet Trung Thu, as it is known in Vietnam, or the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, is a wonderful ancient festival that revolves around children. The festival, held annually on the 15th of Lunar August in Hoi An, helps create the most charming and picturesque night of the year. It involves the customs of moon contemplation, procession of stars & moon using shaped lanterns, lion dance, as well as parties with moon cakes and fruits.
Do you know why we treasure this special festival?
The festival is very much like a combination of Halloween and Thanksgiving. On the night of Lunar August 15th, the streets are full of people wandering around and buying festival treasures. Children parade on the streets, singing and carrying colorful lanterns of different sizes and shapes. There are fish, rabbits, carps, stars and butterflies spinning away when candles are inserted in the lanterns, representing the Earth circling the Sun.
Besides traditional paper lanterns and toys, plastic and bamboo plates, cakes, candies, toy animlas made of rice dough, dragon heads and faces of the Earth God displayed everywhere in the markets, you can also find a variety of the more modern toys with batteries and remote controls, for the delight and entertainment of the young. In well-off families, the mid-autumn banquet is also an opportunity to show off their nubile girls’ cooking abilities.
Lion dances and Moon cake.
One important event before and during Vietnamese Mid-Autumn Festival is lion dancing. Both non-professional and professional children groups perform dances on the streets or in people’s houses. If accepted by the host, “the lion” goes in and starts dancing as a wish of luck. The Lord Earth, called Ong Dia, dances around the dragon, urging it on. Ong Dia has a very round, happy smiling moon-face, and represents the prosperity and wealth
Besides the lion dance, it is customary to offer Banh Trung Thu (boxes of moon cakes) to family and special friends. The cakes, which are traditionally very rich in taste, are filled with lotus seeds, ground beans and orange peels and have a bright yoke in the center to represent the moon. “Banh deo” is the white cake, made of sticky rice and filled with a sweet mixture of lotus seeds, pumpkin seeds or green beans. “Banh nuong” is the brown cake and has a salty taste, it is made of a mixture of egg, pork fat, fried onion, peanut and lemon leaves. Both can be in round or square shapes.
Whether the Mid-Autumn Festival is organized in the city or countryside, its preserved tradition is reflected in the preparation of food trays to contemplate the moon, in lantern marching, lion and unicorn dances, and even in the way the children play different games, such as hide-and-seek. In the bright moonlight, clear sky and fresh environment, everybody is relaxed and filled with pure and detached joy.
Not only locals, but also foreign tourists are warmly welcome to join in this special festival. You will definitely have lots of fun wondering in the streets amidst the crowds, seeing children carrying the lanterns, eating cakes and receiving gifts of celebration during the Mid-Autumn festival!
Celebration on animated streets
the legend Mid-Autumn…
The Festival dates back 15-20,000 years, and is traditionally held on the 15th day of the 8th Lunar Month. If you look at the moon on this day, you will see that its orbit is at its lowest angle to the horizon, and this makes the moon appear brighter and larger than at any other time of the year. The observation of this phenomenon certainly called for a festival filled with joy and entertainment, in honor of the beautiful full moon.
Some say that the festival began during the reign of King Duong Minh Hoang in China, at the beginning of the 8th century. According to ancient manuscripts, the Emperor often wished to visit the Palace on the Moon, so, with the help of a magician, he was taken to the Moon and welcomed by a lot of beautiful fairies. He expressed his admiration for their dance, which was called Nghe Thuong Vu Y, and tried to memorize it. Later on, upon his return, he accidentally found that there were similarities between Nghe Thuong Vu Y and Ba La Mon styles. So he combined the two songs and dances and gradually introduced the new style to everyone in his far ruling countries. The tradition of watching the moon, accompanied by the dance and songs, later became a traditional event in the Mid-Autumn celebration.