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The Vietnamese Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, or Tet Trung Thu, is probably the biggest celebration in the country after the Lunar New Year Festival, or Tet. Held on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, Tet Trung Thu is a time for families to get together. Special attention is lavished on children, who receive presents which include money, moon cakes and candies on this day. Many overseas Vietnamese also send money home to their children during this festival.
Started as a Child-Centric Festival
Tet Trung Thu started out as a festival to allow parents to spend time with their children after the busy harvest season. Ancient Vietnam was mostly agricultural, and during the harvest season, adults had to spend almost all their time working the fields. Hence, many parents had little to no time to spend with their precious children.
Tet Trung Thu was thus a time dedicated to children, allowing families to revel in the joy and laughter that their children brought. Children were especially celebrated in ancient Vietnam for their purity and innocence, and were believed to be sacred. Nowadays, although much of Vietnam has departed from the agricultural lifestyle, families still adhere to the tradition of honoring their children on this day.
A variety of legends associated with the harvest moon are retold during Tet Trung Thu. Among some of the most beloved are that of Ca Hoa Rong, a carp who tried hard to be a dragon and finally had his wish granted. The Chinese legend of Trang Yi, the moon goddess who stole the elixir of immortality, is also well known in Vietnam.
Lion dances are a popular and well-loved part of Tet Trung Thu. Traditionally, groups of children performing the dances would roam the streets, asking for permission to perform in different households. If invited, they would then enter the house to perform and receive “lucky money” from the head of the household. Having a lion dance performed in one’s house is believed to bring good fortune. Occasionally, dragon dances are also performed. The sight of a majestic dragon being paraded through the streets at night is a spectacular sight indeed.
Like the Chinese, the Vietnamese have a tradition of giving and receiving mooncakes, or Banh Trung Thu, during Tet Trung Thu. These pastries are filled with thick sweet pastes, and are commonly sold at roadside food stalls during the season. Some may contain an egg yolk to represent the moon. However, these pastries may be an acquired taste for some who might find the fillings overly sweet.
One of the highlights of Tet Trung Thu is seeing the streets come alive at night with colorful glowing lanterns everywhere. Many children also enjoy walking around holding lanterns. During Tet Trung Thu, one can hear the cheerful laughter of happy children as they parade with their beautiful lanterns. Some of the more popular shapes include rabbits, a star-shaped lantern that represents the sun, and a frog-shaped lantern that is supposed to represent the moon.
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