How Mid-Autumn Festival Celebrated In Some Asian Countries

Not only in Vietnam, but the Mid-Autumn Festival has been welcomed as one of the most significant occasions in other Asian countries such as China, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, etc. In each nation, the festival has a particular meaning which leads to its different celebration.

 Vietnam – The Festival of Children    

The main subject of the Mid-Autumn Festival in Vietnam is children. It is the time when children receive a lantern to play with their friends, enjoy pieces of mooncakes to fulfil their sweet appetite and watch joyful lion dance performance. During the night of the festival, the scenery of children holding lanterns and parading along the streets is sure the most beautiful image of the Mid-Autumn Festival in Vietnam.

Lion Dance (Photo: Vietnam Travel)

China – The Mooncake Festival

Mooncakes have been long recognized as an iconic object of the festival in the Chinese traditions, symbolizing the completeness and reunion. On this special day, no matter how busy they are, Chinese usually come back home to spend time with their families. Under the full Moon, family members sit together in the open air, talk with one another, and enjoy a piece of mooncakes in companion with a cup of tea. For those who are living far away and cannot make the way home, appreciating the Moon brings the feeling as if they were there with their families because the Moon is absolutely the same one no matter where they are.

Chinese mooncakes (Photo: Bridges Chinese Network) 
Japan – The Festival of Moon Observing

In Japan, the Mid-Autumn festival is also called as Otsukimu, literally meaning moon-observing (お月見)(Lễ hội ngắm trăng). Besides, the festival is the time for Japanese to honour the Moon in the autumn, the brightest moon throughout the year.

In the past, while appreciating the Moon, Japanese usually enjoyed white-round glutinous rice cakes put in a food tray in the middle of house yard. However, as some Japanese told me, this tradition has long been faded, and Japanese nowadays do not eat this cake any longer.

A typical Japanese food tray at Otsukimu Festival (Photo: wallcoo.net)

4/ Korea – Chuseok Festival

In Korea, the Mid-Autumn festival has the other name of Chuseok Festival (Lễ Tạ ơn in Vietnamese,) primarily aiming at cherishing bumper harvests and taking reverence for the ancestors. During the festival, Koreans have a tendency to make a three-day trip to their hometowns to reunion with family members and friends.

The typical of Korean traditional food in the festival is a kind of crescent moon-shaped cake called songpyegon (Bánh gạo) served with sindoju (type of native alcohol.)

Chuseok Festival (Photo: Jak Wave)

Singapore – Going on excursions       

It seems to Singaporeans that Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the golden chances to get away from all worries of hectic lifestyle. Therefore, instead of having family gatherings, they prefer to spend time travelling or even going off the beaten track.

However, mooncakes and lanterns are still typically irreplaceable signals of the festival. Singaporeans usually send some boxes of mooncakes as gifts to beloved ones and do not forget to attach some wishes for them.

A lantern street in Singapore (Photo: omy)

6/ Malaysia – The Mooncake and Lantern Festivals

In Malaysian, the Mid-Autumn Festival is split into two important events, including Mooncake Festival (from 19th to 21st Sep) and Lantern Festival (16th Sep.) Generally speaking, Malaysians celebrate the festival in the same way as Vietnamese, including appreciating the moon, enjoying mooncakes, and decorating lighting lanterns. What’s more, the Chinese communities in Kuala Lumpur often join in such exciting outdoor activities as lion dance, dragon dance and lantern parade on the streets.

A house-sized lantern in Malaysia (Photo: Malaysian Meanders)

7/ Thailand – The Prayer Festival

The Mid-Autumn Festival is also called “Prayer Festival” by Thais. It is the time to pay a token of gratitude to nature for its bounty and to remember their ancestors. The Chinese temples in Thailand are mostly crowded with people offering incense, candles and fruits to the Moon Goddess. Moreover, Thais usually offer a kind of peach-shaped cakes to the Buddha on that day and then family members gather around the table with the offerings to worship the Moon, pray and exchange greetings.

Peach-shaped cakes (Photo: City Nomads)

Tien Vo

How Vietnamese Celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival?

Every year in August (Lunar Calendar,) when the Moon reaches its fullness, it is the time when every Vietnamese can go back to be a kid, setting aside work and spending more time with their beloved ones. Also, it is regarded as the children’s festival which is always the festival that the children are looking forward to the most.

I/ Family Reunion

1/Appreciating the Moon

The round shape of the full moon represents fullness and reunion. That’s why people usually come back home on this day to spend time with their family. For those who are living far away and cannot make the way home, appreciating the Moon brings the feeling as if they were there with their families, because the Moon is absolutely the same one no matter where they are.

2/ Enjoying Mooncakes 

On this special day, family members sit together in the open air with the full moon above, talk and share stories with one another, and enjoy a piece of mooncakes with a cup of tea. The cool night seems to be warmer and warmer.

Typically, mooncakes measure around 5 to 10 centimeters across and up to 5 centimeters deep. Most mooncakes have a pastry skin enveloping a sweet and dense filling. There are two main types: baked cake (Bánh Nướng) and chilled cake (Bánh Dẻo). Their particular recipes result in the great discrepancy in the crusts and the compositions of fillings.

II/ Children’s Festival

Each time Tet Trung Thu (Mid-Autumn Festival) approaches, it is always greatly welcomed by children. Because on this day, they can enjoy pieces of sweet mooncakes, play with red lanterns, watch lion dances and wear paper masks.

1/ Red lanterns

The moment when the night falls down is the time for the festival to start. Vietnamese children will hold a lantern in one hand and walk with their friends in a small and lovely parade on the streets. The night suddenly becomes brighter with the tiny lights from each lantern and also more joyful with the laughter and excitement of the children.

Traditionally, the lanterns, as a toy and ornament, symbolized fertility, sending a wish for the sun’s light and warmth to return after winter. They were created in the shapes of natural things, myths, and other familiar figures in daily lives. But today they have come to symbolize the festival also.

Unfortunately, handcrafted lantern making industry has declined in modern times due to the availability of mass-produced plastic lanterns, which often depict popular characters such as Pokémon’s Pikachu, Disney characters, SpongeBob SquarePants, and Hello Kitty.

2/ Lion dances

At some places, lion dances also contribute to the cheerful atmosphere of the festival with the skillful movements of the lion figures and happy smiling moon-face of Ong Dia (The Lord Earth.)

The performance will first start with some small activities led by adults, then further excitement rises when drumbeats ring out. The smaller kids shrink back and the older ones run forward as a mythical lion bursting into their courtyard with its giant head and sinuous body controlled by many skillful dancers. The most astonishing session is the lion with its open mouth and protruding eyes approaching to the crowd gradually, making the kids scream and laugh at their antics. The happy smiling moon-face Lord Earth, called Ong Dia in Vietnamese, dances around the lions and urges the people surrounding to involve in their dances.

3/ Paper mask

In addition, another traditional toy plays an irreplaceable part in the childhood of Vietnamese children – MẶT NẠ GIẤY BỒI (Paper Mask)

In the past, grandparents and parents often made paper masks for their children in Mid-Autumn festival. Paper masks are created in various interesting shapes like animals and funny faces. The main materials for these masks are paper, cassava flour boiled into glue, paint and brush.

Today, the job of making paper masks is still maintained in some provinces in Northern Vietnam, where paper masks are a cherished and endeared tradition among the locals. During the night of the festival, the scenery of children wearing paper masks and holding lanterns while parading along the streets is sure the most beautiful image of Mid-Autumn Festival in Vietnam.

Four Fairy Tales In Mid-Autumn Festival

Have you ever wondered why The Moon Man (Chú Cuội,) The Lady of the Moon (Chị Hằng,) White Rabbit (Thỏ Trắng) and Lanterns (Đèn Lồng) have become irreplaceable symbols of the Mid-Autumn festival? In the Eastern philosophy, every iconic emblem is capable of imparting a great deal in terms of social traditions and meaningful morals. And there are always some legendary tales that have brought about these lovely figures and objects.

  1. CHÚ CUỘI – THE MOON MAN

Once upon a time, a peasant named Cuoi discovered a big banyan tree in the forest that could be used for curing many diseases. He carried the tree back home and told his wife to take good care of the tree by the purest water, otherwise it will fly into the sky. One day, forgetting her husband’s instruction, Cuoi’s wife was urinating into the tree. And the holy tree began to fly into the sky. Cuoi returned just right at that moment, and immediately hooked his axe into the tree’s root to pull it down. Unfortunately, Cuoi was brought to the moon and could not return ever since.

  1. CHỊ HẰNG – THE LADY OF THE MOON

The story beginning with the husband of Chị Hằng, named Hậu Nghệ, was revered for his brave and talent when shooting down 9 of the 10 suns with his bow and arrows to save humans. One day, Hậu Nghệ received the elixir of immortality from the Lady Queen Mother. A neighbor heard of it and tried to take it from Chị Hằng while he was away.

In a moment of desperation, Chị Hằng swallowed the liquid and immediately became a Goddess and flew into the sky. Because she still cared so much for her husband, she landed on the place closest to Earth, the Moon. When Hậu Nghệ looked up to the sky to call out her name, he saw that the moon that night was especially bright which allowed him to catch a glimpse of Chị Hằng.

  1. THỎ TRẮNG – WHITE RABBIT

In the olden days, there lived a brave and kind-hearted white rabbit called Tho Trang . One moonlit night in the forest, Tho Trang  and his friends held a party to welcome the Moon. During the party, they suddenly heard a scream – a human scream. They immediately ran to check and what they found was an old man fainted from hunger. While they were trying to help the man, a cunning fox quickly stole all the food in the party.Tho Trang and his friends tried to search for food to rescue the famished man.

Unfortunately, there was no food left. Brave Tho Trang abruptly jumped into the fire to roast himself as food to feed the man. However, it turned out that the old man was not a normal human, but a fairy, who had disguised himself as a beggar to test the kindness of the children. The fairy was so moved by Tho Trang’s self-sacrifice that he took the rabbit with him to the moon. Since then, Tho Trang has become a ritual animal in the Mid-Autumn Festival.

  1. ĐÈN LỒNG – LANTERNS

Presumably there was a small but prosperous village lying near the river. Suddenly, there was a monster looking like a carp came and killed the villagers. Every 15th August (Lunar calendar), so many people were killed by the carp monster that they decided to leave the village for good.

Luckily one day a monk stopped by the village. After hearing the story, he told the village to make a large lantern in the shape of the carp. Inside of the lantern were small bamboos while the outside was covered with a red fabric. On 15th August, every house hung the lantern in the front door. The evil carp saw the lantern, thinking it was one of its fellows and then walked away without harming the people inside.

Since then, making lantern in every Mid-Autumn festival has become a traditional custom of Vietnamese people. As time gone by, lanterns are not simply a carp but in more complicated shapes like rabbits, dragons, stars, butterflies, etc.