When it comes to celebrating the Moon Festival, Vietnam follows many of the traditions of China. Like China’s Moon Festival, it falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, when the moon is said to be at its brightest. Mooncakes are exchanged, colourful dragon and lion dances take to the streets, and families gather to gaze at the moon. But there is one notable difference…when it comes to celebrating the Moon Festival, Vietnam follows many of the traditions of China. Like China’s Moon Festival, it falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, when the moon is said to be at its brightest. Mooncakes are exchanged, colourful dragon and lion dances take to the streets, and families gather to gaze at the moon. But there is one notable difference…
It’s all about the kids
In Vietnam, the Mid-Autumn Festival is also known as the Children’s Festival or Tết Trung Thu. This annual event has become the favourite day of the year for children in Vietnam, akin to Halloween in the United States. In days gone by, the Vietnamese believed that children represented innocence and purity in the natural world, and so with this in mind, they make children the focus of this auspicious time. Traditionally, it was also a way for parents to make up for lost time with their children, having spent many hours working during the busy harvest period.
Children’s Festival activities in Vietnam
- Lantern parades – If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in Vietnam during the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, you’ll see thousands of children taking to the streets with vibrant lanterns, singing as they parade through town. Carp, butterflies and stars are popular shapes for lanterns, and families spend weeks making these colourful creations together.
- Watch the lion dances – These loud and lively performances are said to ward off bad luck and evil spirits. Children will often perform these dances for their neighbours, who in turn give them ‘lucky’ money as a sign of gratitude.
- Exchange mooncakes – Known as banh trung thu, the Vietnamese mooncakes are made of sticky rice, with fillings of jam, bean pastes, lotus seed and watermelon seed.
Vietnamese Moon Festival Legend
One of the most well-known Vietnamese legends relating to the Moon Festival is the Legend of Thằng Cuội. Cuội had a sacred banyan tree that could restore life. He always reminded his wife to water it with clean water, so it did not get exposed to contamination. However, one day the wife forgot to water the tree when Cuội was away and so she urinated on it. The tree began to grow incessantly and when Cuội tried to chop it down with an axe, he got stuck on the tree and floated upwards with it. Eventually, Cuội was stranded on the moon. Therefore, each year children light colourful lanterns to lead Cuội’s way back to Earth.