Vietnam Mid Autumn Festival: Origin, Meaning and Activities
Mid Autumn Festival in Vietnam (Vietnamese: Tết Trung Thu) is also known as the “Children’s Festival”. It is held in the middle of the eighth month in lunar calendar. Couple weeks before celebration of Mid-autumn Festival, you will see lots of mooncake food stalls appearing on every other coners and streets. The mooncakes are decorated boxes filled with red color and differrent tastes, sizes or shapes. The most popular lantern is a star in shape made with red cellophane. Almost chidren have it to participate in the lantern parade under the moon.
On the night of the full moon, there are many interesting activities. Lion dancing is an essential element of the Mid-autumn festitives. lion dancing to every house in their neighbor with the hope that will bring fortune to these households. However, unless house owners give them some money, these dancers will not stop. The Mid-Autumn is precious time when family members meet up to eat moon cakes, gaze at the year’s most stunning moon, and talk with each other.
How was Origin and Meaning of Mid Autumn Festival Traditions in Vietnam?
Legend History of Traditional Full Moon Festival in Vietnam dates back as far as about 20,000 years ago in Southeast Asia, and is traditionally held on the 15th day of the 8th Lunar Month. Looking at the moon on this day, you will see that its orbit is at the lowest angle to the horizon, making the moon appear brighter and larger than at any other time of the year. Thus, accordingly, there came a festival with a series of entertainment activities in honor of the beautiful full moon.
There are several explanations for that phenomenon as well as the tradition of celebrating the Mid-autumn Festival. Some said that it began since 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. Then, 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. Later, he accidentally found that there were similarities between Nghe Thuong Vu Y and Ba La Mon styles. After combining the two songs and dances styles into one, he gradually introduced it to everyone in their far ruling countries. The tradition of watching the moon, the dance and songs later became a traditional event in the Mid-Autumn celebration.
What Activities would be Celebrated on Mid Autumn Festival in Vietnam?
Mid Autumn Festival Celebration in Vietnam is the ideal time for tourists to get exposed to the local culture. Many activities take place during this Full Moon Festival, so make sure you don’t miss any during your visit. Below are the signature activities in Mid-Autumn Festival in Vietnam.
- Make eye-catching lanterns - a crucial step of preparation:
Even though the main festival itself is celebrated on the 15th night of the lunar month, the festive atmosphere can be felt for weeks before the night. Lanterns are one of the features during the preparation period. Although there are colorful ready-made lanterns sold on the streets, kids are more excited about making the lanterns themselves.
Traditionally, the lanterns have a star shape. They can be easily made from bamboo sticks and colored paper. A candle is placed inside the lantern. With modern lanterns, the candle is replaced by LED lights so that it will shine brighter.
Nowadays, making lanterns is a chance to show the creativity of the maker. It can be made from soft-drink bottles, milk cartoons, and many other unique materials. Everyone tries their best to create their own appealing lanterns for the upcoming light parade on the Full Moon.
- Walk under the moonlight with lanterns and sing Festival songs:
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 buying festival stuff and wandering. Besides the assorted paper lanterns, cakes, candies, the toy animals made of rice dough, the dragon heads and faces of the Earth God made of paper are displayed everywhere in the markets.
Children parade on the streets, singing and carrying colorful lanterns of different sizes and shapes, such as fishes, stars, butterflies, which spin when candles are inserted, representing the earth circling the sun. In well-off families, the mid-autumn banquet is to show up their nubile girls’ cooking abilities.
This festival is mostly geared to children, thus, to help children get ready for the Festival, parents can help them make their lanterns and costumes for the lantern procession and discuss the history and culture of Vietnam. Showing our love for our children and teaching of Vietnam’s love for their children is a wonderful reason to celebrate!
- Lion Dances and Moon Cake - Best Vietnamese Mid Autumn Festival Food:
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 go to houses. If accepted by the host, “the lion” will come in and start dancing as a wish of luck.
Beside the lion dance, it is customary to offer Banh Trung Thu, boxes of moon cakes, which are traditionally very rich in taste. The cakes 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 sweet mixture of lotus seeds, pumpkin seeds or green bean while “Banh nuong” is the brown cake and has salty taste with a mixture of egg, pork fat, fried onion, peanut and lemon leaves inside. Both can be in round or square shapes.
Where are the Best Places to Join Mid Autumn Festival in Vietnam?
- Hoi An Ancient Town: This should be the first destination to come to mind when people talk about lanterns in Vietnam. Unlike other places, Mid Autumn Festival in Hoi An takes place in 4 consecutive days, from the 12th to the 15th day of the 8th lunar month.
In fact, there is a lantern festival every full moon in this ancient town. However, the one in Mid autumn is the biggest one. Mid Autumn Festival Vietnam 2022 is not an exception. During the festival, the town is exceptionally appealing with lanterns everywhere.
At night, people would gather along the river bank, light up the lanterns, then release them onto the river with a wish for luck and fortune. The river hence looks extraordinarily twinkling, making a mesmerizing and unforgettable scene for visitors.
Mid Autumn Festival in Hoi An Ancient Town of Vietnam is also the time for several interesting folk games, such as “Bài Chòi”, blind man's bluff, bamboo jacks, mandarin square capturing, and so on.
- Hanoi Old Quarter: Another must-go destination during Mid Autumn Festival in Vietnam is Hanoi Old Quarter. Here, you can participate in several enticing entertaining activities while enjoying the merry vibe of this traditional Vietnamese festival.
The streets in the Old Quarter, especially the Walking Street area, Hang Ma street, Phung Hung street, and Dong Xuan market, are beautifully decorated to welcome the Full Moon Festival. It is so much fun to walk along these streets, pass by toy stalls, watch traditional art performances, and play folk games. Additionally, don’t forget to visit the Heritage House on Ma May Street to see how the people of Hanoi celebrate the festival.
- Ho Chi Minh City: The modern Ho Chi Minh City (known as Saigon City) has no lack of culture, this can be seen during Mid Autumn Festival in Vietnam, when you have a chance to explore the charming cultural beauty of this city.
At this time, many streets such as Luong Nhu Hoc, Nguyen Trai, Tran Hung Dao, and Nguyen An are full of charming carp-shaped lanterns and decorative items. 3 days before Mid Autumn Festival, the local authorities will make these streets a pedestrian-only zone for tourists to easily walk around. You can also visit local food stalls to try traditional foods or participate in some folk games on these streets.
Besides, if you love to feel some different vibes, visit Chinatown (Cho Lon) to see how the Cantonese-Vietnamese celebrate their full moon festival. Today, the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, together with the encouraging affection for children, promotes education, poetry, dance, arts and crafts. Most overseas Vietnamese family, though far away from their home country, would like to bring their kids back to the home country right in Full moon festival time, one amongst the most important ones in Vietnam. Otherwise, most of them hold a distant festival on their own in the country where they live to remind the kids of their origin and national culture.
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