Mid-autumn Festival in Vietnam
There are many traditional festivals in Vietnam such as Tet Festival, Mid-Year Festival… The Mid-autumn Festival in Vietnam known as “Tet Trung Thu” is the second famous big festival after Tet Festival. It is organized on fifteenth day of the lunar August when the weather is the best during the year with cool wind, especially the fullest and brightest moon. In Vietnam, it’s a big chance to celebrate such a beautiful day and night with lots of traditional activities such as contemplating the full moon while eating moon cakes, fruits and sipping some tea, lightening lanterns, lion dancing, enjoying dinner together. Besides traditional meanings with customs, Mid-autumn Festival in Vietnam plays an important part in modern life in which people are busy and live far from home town. It’s big chance to come back home, gather to celebrate the festival with family. Let’s talk about a very beautiful part in Vietnamese culture – Mid-autumn Festival or Full Moon Festival.
Mid-Autumn Festival in the past.
Mid-autumn Festival appeared in Southeast Asia about 15,000 years ago. There are different explanations for it. Ancient book said that the festival began in King Duong Minh Hoang time of Duong dynasty in China. One night of the lunar fifteenth of the August month, while contemplating the moon with the officers, the king wished he would go up to visit the moon once. Magician Dieu Phap Thien offered to help him. The magician used magic to fly him to the moon. Arriving at the moon, the King was warmly welcome. Hundreds of fairies wore colorful thin silk tunics with the hands holding white silk both danced and sang. That dance was called “Nghe Thuong”. Coming back to the earth, the King taught the dancers the dance and everyone praised. To commemorate the day visiting the moon the King followed the people in China to rest and entertain on the lunar fifteenth of August month. This custom has gradually propagated to Vietnam, Japan, Hong Kong and Korea…
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On the Mid-autumn day, the weather is very nice with the fullest moon. The sight of clear sky and the cool wind is very convenient for entertaining both adults and children. In Vietnam, the Mid-Autumn festival happens rather excitingly. Just at the beginning of the lunar August month, moon cakes and lanterns are displayed attractively all over the towns. The streets become colorful and splendid with a new coat. Moon cake and lantern shops are crowded with people coming to buy moon cakes and lanterns as gifts. Vietnamese people who live apart usually send moon cakes, sweets and tea to their parents and grandparents. We also offer presents to their teachers, friends and cooperators.
The streets are full of colorful lanterns. Beautiful traditional lanterns made from bamboo and colorful transparent plastic paper attracts many generations of Vietnamese people. – Photo by Scooter Saigon Tour
What makes moon cake win the heart of all ages in Vietnam? It’s a kind of tender and smelling with a light sweet crust and flavorful fillings. There are two main kinds of traditional moon cakes: sticky one and baked one. Many brands and cooks have created new kinds of moon cakes such as jelly moon cakes. Their main shapes are round and square, the round symbols for the sky and the square symbols for the earth. We also make small and nice cake in pig, rabbit, bear shape for children. There is a wide range of moon cake’s fillings: sweet fillings (mung bean paste, lotus seed paste, red bean paste, chocolate paste…) and savory (mix of pork floss, Chinese sausage, cashew, toasted chicken, salted egg yolk, sugar-preserved cranberry…). In the past, moon cake is made by women for family members to eat. Nowadays, there are many brands of moon cakes with a wide range of prices, boxes and quality for customer choices.
Moon cake is a must at Mid-autumn Festival in Vietnam. In the photo, the round and square baked moon cake look attractive.
Children in colorful clothes are the most excited at lanterns. At the shops, they eagerly point at the lanterns hung loosely and would like to be gifted one. Traditional lanterns are made from bamboo and paper or colorful transparant plastic paper, candles is used to light up the lantern. Popular shapes of traditional lanterns are star, butterfly, carp, lotus… Today, we also make lanterns with plastic paper with fun images and electric lanterns with music.
On Mid-Day Festival Day, most Vietnamese families offer God, Buddha and ancestor moon cakes, flowers and fruits. They pray for the full and warm living and then they together drink tea and cakes. Family members gather to celebrate the big festival together by cooking, enjoying meals. Some families even make hand-made moon cake and lantern some days before the lunar fifteenth of August. It’s a chance for those who living far from home to visit their parents and grand parents with special gifts such as moon cakes and tea. Most of the families stay up late to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival in Vietnam.
Many generations gather to celebrate the Full Moon Festival together.
As I mentioned above, children are excited at the festival most so that we organize many events for them. On the Mid-autumn Festival’s Eve, in some wards, towns and villages, the Youth Unions hold the lantern-bringing festival. Children usually gather at a yard, made a line and bring lanterns to the People Committee office of ward, town, or village. They sing while they are walking. The most deeply impressive song is Rước đèn tháng tám with lyrics as below:
Tết Trung Thu rước đèn đi chơi,
Em rước đèn đi khắp phố phường.
Lòng vui sướng với đèn trong tay,
Em múa ca trong ánh trăng rằm.
Đèn ông sao với đèn cá chép,
Đèn thiên nga với đèn bướm bướm,
Em rước đèn này đến cung trăng.
Đèn xanh lơ với đèn tím tím,
Đèn xanh lam với đèn trắng trắng,
Trông ánh đèn rực rỡ muôn màu.
The song’s lyrics could be translated as below:
Mid-Autumn Festival, bring lantern, go out,
I bring lantern, go through streets and wards
I’m happy with lantern in hand,
I dance and sing under mid-month moonlight,
Star lantern and carp lanterns,
Swan lantern and butterfly lanterns,
I bring these lanterns onto the moon.
Light blue and violet lanterns ,
Blue and white lanterns,
All looks colorful and bright light.
At the office, the children are offered gifts. After that, they make a circle, play games and watch dragon-horse dance. They sing aloud the song ”Múa sư tử”.
Thùng thình thùng thình,
trống rộn ràng ngoài đình.
Có con sư tử
vui múa quanh vòng quanh.
Trung thu liên hoan,
Trăng sáng ngập đường làng.
Dưới ánh trăng vàng,
em cất tiếng hát vang.
The song’s lyrics could be translated as below:
Thung thinh thung thinh,
the drum is bustling at the temple.
There is a lion
which is dancing around.
We’re celebrating the Mid-autumn Festival,
Moonlight covers village roads.
Under yellow moonlight,
I sing loudly.
In big cities in Vietnam such as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Danang… the festival is celebrated popularly in shopping malls, offices, schools and universities. Many events, shows for adults and children are organized at Mid-Autumn Festival. Restaurants, hotels and shops are decorated with splendid and colorful lanterns. Everything becomes twinkle twinkle at night. Especially, in Hoi An ancient town, streets and hundreds-year-old houses are covered by a new coat with hundreds Hoi An cloth lanterns. The river looks like a carf with lightening floating lanterns in lotus and boat shape.
On Mid-Autumn Festival’s Eve at Tay Ninh Cao Dai Temple in Southern Vietnam, we organize a big festival called Hoi Yen Dieu Tri Cung (The party festival in Mother Buddha palace). Caodaism (Cao Dai is a unique religion originated in Vietnam) poem has sentence:
Trung thu tháng tám đêm rằm,
Là ngày Đức Mẹ giáng lâm cõi trần.
(Mid-Autumn, the eighth month, the night of the fifteenth,
Being the day when Mother goes down the world of human.)
Firstly, Caodaists beseech Mother Buddha and nine fairies to go down the human world. After that, they carry out the parade from Mother Buddha Temple to the big temple. This is the festival unique in Vietnam as well as in the world. Leading the parade is Tu linh team (Tu linh means four sacred animals including dragon horse, tortoise and phoenix. Tu linh symbols for peaceful and prosperous life). The four animals dance in liveliness. Next is the music team. The ending is flower car contenting Mother Buddha and nine fairies statues.
Mid-autumn Festival in Vietnam contains a lot of deep meaning. It shows attention of adults to children, gratitude of children to parents and grandparents, gratitude of human to God and Buddha, gratitude of people to benefactors. People express wishes to have a peaceful and prosperous life of the Vietnamese. Mid-autumn Festival in Vietnam is an opportunity for tourists to come, admire the beauty and rich culture of the country. Let’s enjoy some moon cakes, drink some tea and see the nice view of the streets at Full Moon Festival.
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