Every year, under the shining full moon on the 15th of August the sounds boisterous laughter and upbeat music cheer up the atmosphere from the urban cities to the countryside areas in Vietnam. At this time, tumultuous crowd of people inch their way all around the street or neighborhood to feel the breeze of the Tet Trung Thu (Mid-Autumn Festival) coming to town.
Tet Trung Thu is considered to be another Children’s Day in Vietnam as the main purpose of celebration is for the children. With the aim of bringing happiness and joy to the kids through traditional customs, all the activities in this occasion focus on folk dancing, singing or games. Here are some popular ones:
Enjoying the moonlight with a piece of mooncake and a sip of green tea is an indispensable tradition. Vietnam also shares mooncake as the symbolic dish like other countries. In the early days, there are only two traditional kinds including Banh Nuong (baked mooncake) and Banh Deo (sticky rice mooncake) separated by the different crust. The filling of two kinds can be the same with mostly jam, dried sausage, lotus seed, watermelon seed, etc.
As the time goes by, Vietnamese mooncake recipes have become more diverse with new ingredients introduced from other cultures. The traditional mooncakes have their own variations such as the colorful Banh Deo with natural coloring from available fruits and vegetables.
Interestingly, nowadays, a mooncake can be in the form of “jelly mooncake” with the cool and moist taste of the jelly crust and filling.
Another type of mooncake that has a western influence is the “ice cream mooncake” which can be found in big ice cream stores in Asia. The “ice cream mooncake” has the soft chocolate coated outside the ice cream.
Appearing as a festival imported from China, Tet Trung Thu in Vietnam share the some activities like other East Asian countries in the areas. That is the unicorn dancing in public places along with the splendid display of decorative multi-color lanterns at night-fall. Normally, the unicorn dancers will parade along the streets with the drumbeat as back-up music. The kids and their families line up as they follow the dancers and show their resplendent lanterns in the bustling crowd.
However, there is one thing that may distinguish Vietnam from others in this occasion. That is exclusive Star Lantern, which is also a symbol of Vietnamese Mid-Autumn Festival. It is believed that the twinkling light from the star lantern has a meaning of purity and brightness which are normally found in children. Hence, playing with it is a way of honoring kids’ beauty. From that point of view, playing with star lantern has gradually become an essential toy in Vietnamese culture in Mid-Autumn Festival.
It is made from bamboo sticks and sparkling colored-transparent papers, both of which are cheap materials so that any child can afford one to play with.
Yes, the children are the ones who enjoy the most but annual Tet Trung Thu also ends with the merriness of the adults. That is because the sight of full moon often brings the feeling of complete happiness. The festival has come to an end carrying all their hopes to the moon that night. Despite the great impact of globalization in its culture and the recent transformation of customs, Vietnam still has its own identity of the Tet Trung Thu that nowhere else to be found.
By Nguyen Thu Thao, ASEAN Correspondent from Vietnam