Every year, on August 15th of the lunar calendar, children all over Vietnam get to parade lanterns, eat moon cakes, watch dancing unicorn so happily. That day is the Mid-Autumn Festival in Vietnam (Vietnamese: Tết Trung Thu), which has attached to Vietnamese people since ancient times.
ORIGIN of Mid-Autumn Festival in Vietnam
Many researchers think that the Mid-Autumn Festival comes from China. However, they do not know exactly when it started. There are many legends in China explaining the origin of the Mid-Autumn Festival such as Chang’E and Hou Yi, Táng Míng Huáng to the Moon.
LEGEND OF CHANG’E AND HOU YI
The legend of Chang’E (Goddess Moon) and Hou Yi has many different versions. The most common version has been handed down as follows: In ancient times, there were 10 suns in the sky burning grass and trees and making human life miserable. At that time, an archer named Hou Yi appeared and shot down nine suns. He left a sun shining daily and bringing the good life to the earth. Later, Hou Yin met a beautiful and kind girl named Chang’E and married her.
In repay for Hou Yi, Xiwangmu (Queen Mother of the West) gave him an immortal pill to help him become a god. However, because he wanted to live with his wife, How Yi hid the pill in a chest. The incident spread to the ears of Peng Meng, a student of Hou Yi. He had the idea of stealing the pill. When Hou Yi went hunting, the pupil forced Chang’E to give the pill. In an urgent situation, she had to swallow fully of the magical pill and was brought straight into the sky. Jade Emperor allowed Chang’E to stay on the moon so that she was close to the homeland. Day and night she looked forward to her husband.
Because of missing her gentle wife, Hou Yi usually placed a tray of dishes that his wife liked in front of the house at the night of the bright moon, hoping that she could see it from the moon. This was followed by the people and gradually became the Mid-Autumn Festival, wishing of family reunion and happiness.
THE LEGEND OF TÁNG MÍNG HUÁNG GOING TO THE MOON
Táng Míng Huáng times (713 –755) started to have the custom of the Mid-Autumn Festival. According to legend, one year, on August 15th of the lunar calendar, when Táng Míng Hoáng and his children watched the full moon, King Táng wished to go to heaven once. A magician brought the king to the moon. When going to the moon, the king was welcomed and given a big party by Jade Empera. He gave hundreds of beautiful fairies wearing brightly colored silk coats, holding pieces of white silk, both dancing and singing Nghe Thuong Vu Y Khuc in the yard. King Táng enjoyed it a lot; thanks to his musical aptitude, he learned by heart the song and the dance. Returning at the Royal Palace, he taught dancers to perform the dance and the song that he had learned; Mid-Autumn Festival was born from that. After its formation in China, Mid-Autumn Festival spread throughout Chinese colonies and the neighboring countries. Vietnamese history books did not say when the Mid-Autumn Festival started to happen; only know that hundreds of years ago, Vietnamese ancestors followed this custom.
ACTIVITIES at Mid-Autumn Festival in Vietnam
DISPLAYING, SELLING AND BUYING MOONCAKES
Although the Mid-Autumn Festival officially happens on August 15th of the lunar calendar, in the early month, people see the stalls selling moon cakes along the street. The stalls are decorated politely and display many kinds of mooncakes. Generally, mooncakes are divided into two kinds: baked mooncakes and sticky mooncakes. They have a round shape or square one with many beautiful patterns and colors. Before August 15th, there are lots of customers coming to buy mooncakes; they look precious the cakes of the early season.
DISPLAYING, SELLING AND BUYING LANTERNS
Since early August of the lunar calendar, there have been stalls and street areas displaying and selling lanterns. there are many kinds of lanterns such as a star, carp, butterfly, pig, rabbit, dragon, ship, garlic, round balloon, especially revolving lantern. The lanterns have all colors: blue, red, yellow, pink, white and so on. They are made of materials like bamboo, paper, silk… Besides the lantern, there are lots of electronic toys, toy unicorn heads. Children fellow parents to choose to buy the lanterns that they like. Because there are so many kinds, designs, colors, sometimes children have to rely on the help of their parents.
PROCESSION OF LANTERNS
The Mid-Autumn Festival lantern procession is the main activity of the Mid-Autumn Festival. This festival usually happens on the night of August 14th of the lunar calendar. In the present, the processions of lanterns happen solemnly in the cities in the country. Leading the procession are the cars carrying large lanterns with bright colors and lights. The lanterns usually have images such as a dragon, a carp, a butterfly, a star, especially animals’ images named lunar calendar such as a mouse, a buffalo, a tiger. On the cars, there are also some teenagers and children; some walk along 2 sides of the cars. Following the cars are groups of children bringing pretty small lanterns. On the two sides of the street, people in which there are children stand watching with interest. The children’s music from the procession of lanterns makes the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival more exciting.
WATCHING DANCING UNICORN
This is a favorite activity for children. On the Mid-Autumn Festival’s eve, the children gather at the ward or commune headquarters to watch unicorn dancing. The clever performances of the unicorn, the graceful appearance of the Earth God make children passionate. Here they also participate in exciting collective games. On this night, they get to receive mid-autumn gifts from Youth Group, Young Pioneer Team, wealthy benefactors.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is the occasion so that people show feeling, gratitude to parents, grandparents, teachers, relatives and friends. Since early August, people usually give each other the mooncakes of the early season. On the days near the Mid-Autumn, whenever visitors come to visit home, hosts usually serve mooncakes; the Mid-Autumn Season happens everywhere.
Vietnamese have a tradition of gratitude for their ancestors. They have the custom of worshipping ancestors. Every festival, there is always an offering tray of food to them. On offering trays of other festivals, there are usually many kinds of food, but on offering tray of the Mid-Autumn Festival, there are only mooncakes and tea water. However, this makes the meaning of the Mid-Autumn Festival outstanding. That is reunion and happiness. People can carry out the ceremony in the evening August 14th or in the morning August 15th of the lunar calendar.
WATCHING THE MOON
Watching the moon on the Mid-August Festival’s eve is a Vietnamese traditional activity. the old men often lay mats in front of the yards, under the bright moonlight drink tea, eat mooncakes, watch the moon. The old women sit on the porch telling the children the fairy tales, especially the tales related to the moon such as Hou Yi and Chang’E, Emperor Táng Mính Hoáng Going to the Moon, Jade Rabbit, Uncle Cuội (The boy on the moon).
The Mid-August Festival in Vietnam is mainly for children. It is a children’s festival; it makes them happy and has a beautiful impression in their life. The festival shows the attention of adults to children, the future owners of the country. Mid-Autumn Festival also shows gratitude to the ancestors, to those with whom people are grateful. It makes the affection between people in the community more attached. In addition, the Mix-Autumn Festival also expresses the love for the nature of Vietnamese people.