Some western foreigners say the Vietnamese mid-autumn festival is nothing that differs from the Halloween or the Thanks Giving. But they are quite different. In the full-moon day, children wear masks but not for threatening somebody to death like those in Halloween, and Vietnamese family gather together but not for expressing their thanks to God like those in the Easter day. In fact, Vietnamese Mid-Autumn Festival will imprint the best memories in your mind that you only find in your trip to Vietnam.
The meaning of Mid-Autumn Festival
To Vietnamese people, Mid-Autumn Festival is the second most important event after the Lunar New Year. Because this is the time the moon can get the biggest and fullest shape. And to oriental conception, a full moon is a symbol of prosperity, happiness, and family reunion. Therefore, Vietnamese people always try to put daily work on the side, or even travel hundreds of kilometers in order to gather with their family, have dinner then spend time on talking with their parents, siblings and relatives. Likewise, children are also overwhelmed with joy when they are given many candies and toys by their parents.
The must-eat Mid-Autumn retreat – Moon cake
Spontaneously, the thing people can think of on saying about Vietnamese mid-autumn festival is moon cake. In general, most moon cakes consist of a pastry skin enveloping a sweet and dense filling inside like green bean or mixing of meat and salted egg for example. Fillings in contemporary style mooncakes has diversified to include just about anything which can be made into a paste like taro paste, coffee, fruits (pineapples, melons or lyches) and even chocolate in order to give a modern twist to the traditional recipes. Moon cakes are usually eaten in small wedges, and shared by family members, generally with green tea with lotus aroma.
Worshiping the moon Ceremony
As usual, Vietnamese people set up a worshiping platform in yard during the night of Mid Autumn Festival, on which moon cakes, a tray of five fruits and snacks are laid. Then family members will sit together to have dinner while admiring the moon. The platform will not be taken down for children to enjoy until the midnight.
It’s also a tradition for the Vietnamese to light lanterns during the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival children hold various kinds of paper lanterns and play in the moonlight, while eating moon cakes during the evening of the Mid-Autumn Festival.
At night, groups of children parade through the streets, going from door to door and asking the owners for their permission to perform the lion dance. If it is agreed then the children will put on a show, which is believed to bring luck and fortune. Afterwards, the owners will give the children ‘lucky’ money for their gratitude.
Suggestions for Expats in Vietnam
If you are in Hanoi, head to the noisy and crowded Old Quarter, to the artery of Hang Ma street which is already drowned in the gaudy colors, mainly red, of lanterns, toys, costumes and accessories in the days leading to the festival. Make-shift kiosks are erected everywhere, and together with the pre-existing brick-and-mortar ones, make sure the festival goers are well-equipped.
Another great place experience the Mid-Autumn festival is Hoi An and Da Nang. There you can chase down a wider road then get lost amid the madness. Aided by the thousands of paper lanterns on the river, it’s possibly the best-lit spot; or work your way to the quieter edge of town, where you will find dozens of kids playing at their own dragon performance for fun, which somehow feels a bit more authentic.