Talking about Vietnamese holidays, besides the well-known traditional Tet and the sacred day of Hung Kings Commemorations, there is a joyful festivity that you should check out – the Mid-Autumn Festival. While the festival originated in China and is celebrated in many other Asian countries such as South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, etc., the one in Vietnam has its own fascinating traditions and legends.
Also known as the Children’s Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival is obviously loved and treasured by most Vietnamese kids and youngsters. However, it is not the only reason why this day is one of the most joyful occasions of the year. The festival’s meaning is attached to the Vietnamese Agricultural Civilization. Tracking back to a thousand years ago, Vietnamese farmers usually celebrate a successful harvest by singing and dancing in the refreshing air of autumn. Later on, the Mid-Autumn Festival annually took place in Thang Long Citadel with various exciting activities from the residents such as the water puppet and lantern parade. The festival remains true to its spirit and is still a major event of the year until today.
In modern life, the Mid-Autumn Festival is a treasured occasion for Vietnamese people to gather with their family and friends and celebrate the full moon - a symbol of harmony and unity. At school, children have the chance to hear folk tales about Mr.Cuoi and Carp Leaping Over Dragon’s Gate. Legend has it that Mr.Cuoi found a magical Banyan Tree whose leaves can revive deaths and save thousands. Unfortunately, his wife urinated on the tree, made it float to the moon, and dragged Mr.Cuoi for trying to hold it back. Inspired by the mythical stories, youngsters march on the streets with their parents, carrying star and carp-shaped lanterns to guide Mr.Cuoi the way back to Earth.
Mooncakes are round or square pastries that symbolize the full moon, representing completeness and unity. The shape and design of mooncakes may vary, but they commonly feature intricate patterns or imprints on the top crust, showcasing cultural motifs, Chinese characters, or images of the moon and flowers. Vietnamese mooncakes feature different types of crusts, each with its own unique texture and taste. The two most common crusts are "bột nướng" (baked crust) - flaky, slightly sweet, and have a golden-brown appearance and "bột dẻo" (sticky rice flour crust) - soft, chewy. The fillings can be varied due to the demand but the main taste profile is sweet. To balance it, Vietnamese people usually couple the mooncake with a hot pot of green tea, which gives a fragrant scent and nice flavor when combined with the cake.
If you come to Vietnam around 1 month prior to the full moon festival, you probably get noticed of the long kiosks on the sidewalks selling mooncakes from different brands. Symbolizing the moon, as well as its completeness and entirety, mooncakes are not simply “food” but can also be a meaningful gift to people as a wish of success and happiness.
Trung Thu festivities are further enhanced by lively lion and dragon dances. These captivating performances feature acrobatic movements, rhythmic drumming, and vibrant costumes. The lion and dragon are believed to bring good luck, fortune, and ward off evil spirits. The dances, accompanied by firecrackers, fill the air with excitement and energy.
The Lion Dance involves interaction with the audience, creating an engaging and lively atmosphere that catches up anybody's attention, especially children. The lion may approach spectators, playfully interact with them, and receive offerings in the form of red envelopes containing money, symbolizing blessings and prosperity. This interaction is believed to bring good luck and fortune to those who participate.
Lanterns are what make Mid-autumn festival so impressive and animated. Lanterns in the parade come in various shapes, sizes, and designs, ranging from simple to elaborate. Traditionally, Vietnamese lanterns in “Tết trung thu” come in the shape of a star. They are made of colorful paper or fabric stretched over a frame, often featuring intricate cutouts or paintings. Lantern designs can include animals, mythical creatures, flowers, zodiac symbols, and other cultural motifs. The creativity and artistry showcased in the lanterns are truly captivating.
To wholly enjoy this special occasion, you can whether stroll on the crowded but colorful Hang Ma Street of Hanoi or join in the glamorous Hoi An Lantern Festival of the ancient town itself. Blend in the streams of people, seeing youngsters with beautiful lanterns and Lion dancing on the streets as your skin gets goosebumps from the drumbeats. It’s just a fantastic experience.
Hoi An Lantern Festival
As an indispensable soul fragment of the Vietnamese people, Mid-Autumn Festival, without question, is an annual celebration that’s no culture explorer wants to be missed. Likewise, more than just a cultural experience, it’s also a truly rare opportunity which you can discover another different lifestyle of the local: Enjoy and Alive, a total contradictory to their hasty and busy (or quiet and laid back) daily life.