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Moon Festival

Vietnam’s magical Moon Festival

Mid-Autumn festival is one of the biggest celebrations in Vietnam and is called ‘Tet Trung thu’. Children love this colourful time with bright decorations and fun activities. At BIS Hanoi, we celebrate Moon festival as a way of honoring our host country; students and teachers eagerly await exciting performances and wear Ao Dai to school. So, let’s find out more about this wonderful event.

Why do people celebrate Moon festival?

Over 4000 years ago, Vietnam’s rice civilization started in the Red river delta. At that time, the mid-autumn festival was held to celebrate a successful harvest and to worship the God of Earth to support their farming. Additionally, it was a chance for parents to take a break from working and spend time with their children. This special event often occurs on the 15th day of the Eighth month in Lunar calendar, when the Moon is the fullest. It is believed that Moon presents the fullness and prosperity of life.

What do people do in Moon festival?

Vietnamese people celebrate ‘Tet Trung thu’ in different ways. They often prepare a feast for their children, which includes moon cake, different seasonal fruit in autumn such as pomelo, papaya, persimmon, pineapple, and dragon fruit. These fruits are carved and displayed as different animals for children to enjoy along with other treats.

Fruit Carving

Children are also bought or make lanterns to join a march at night under the moon light, singing along to cheerful Mid-autumn songs. The traditional lanterns are star or carp shaped; however, in recent times there are more modern designs to serve the children’s interest.

Lion Dance

Dragon dances or lion dances are the highlight of Moon festival. With its gaping mouth and protruding eyes, the lion is both comical and formidable. The dancers lunge closer to the crowd, making children squeal and laugh at their antics; accompanied by a pounding drum beat, this is a standout performance on the night of Moon festival.

Which stories are told in Moon festival?

There are several legends explaining the origin of some characters or features in Moon festivals. It is interesting to learn about them as they lively illustrate the variety and abundance of Vietnam’s culture.

‘Chu Cuoi’ – the funny little boy who lived on the Moon.

chu cuoi

Legend tells us that a boy named Cuội, who hung on to a magical banyan tree as it floated up to the moon got stuck there and, if you look closely at the full moon, you can see the shadow of a man sitting under a tree. Children parade with lanterns in the streets the night of Mid-autumn Festival to help light the way to earth for Cuội from the Moon.

‘Ong Dia’ mask

Ong Dia Masks

There is a male dancer wearing a round happy-faced mask that symbolises the moon. He urges the lion dancers on and delights the crowd with his comical moves. This is the Earth God, Ông Địa, who represents the fullness of the earth and reminds onlookers to give thanks for its bounty. Ông Địa always brings joy and puts a smile on every Vietnamese child's face. 

The carp lantern

Den long lantern

A legend goes that a carp spirit killed many people during Mid-Autumn night so that no household dared go outside that night. Later, a wise man thought of an idea: he made a carp-shaped lantern with a stick in its belly and then advised people to walk at night with a carp lantern in hand. The carp spirit was terrified by the light of the lantern and dared not go out to kill people at Mid-autumn since then.

Moon cake origin

Moon cake

Moon cake is made from flour, meat, egg yolk, dried fruit, pumpkin’s seed and peanut. It symbolises Luck, Happiness, Health and Wealth on the Mid-Autumn day. However, the origin of moon cake was from China. Actually, that cake was made by a man whose wife lived in the Moon and by making the cake, his wife can reunite with him on Mid-Autumn night. Therefore, ‘Tet Trung thu’ is also considered as the reunion event when people spend quality time together. You can watch the story here. 

At BIS Hanoi, we not only celebrate Moon festival by wearing Ao dai or watching wonderful performances, all our students have opportunity to learn about this special event and even experience the Moon festival atmosphere in their Vietnamese Beginners or Vietnamese lessons. Try asking your child about ‘Tet Trung thu’ and they may surprise you with their culture knowledge!!!

Mi Hoang

Head of Teaching Assistants