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.