In Vietnamese culture, the Mid-Autumn Lunar Festival (also known as Tet Trung Thu), is the second most important festival after Tet (the Chinese Lunar New Year). This festival is celebrated on the full moon of the 15th day on the 8th month of the lunar calendar, traditionally giving adults to spend time with their children after completing the summer harvest.
Originating in China, this festival has transcended nations, infiltrating a variety of Southeast Asian cultures, and despite the geographical variation of celebrations, the festival celebrates three fundamental and closely connected concepts:
Gathering. This can be in terms of bringing people together – such as family and friends – or food, in the form of harvested crops. As the moon is the brightest and roundest on this day, family reunion has a high cultural significance.
Thanksgiving. Cultures give thanks for the harvests. Without these life-giving foods, civilisations would not flourish in the incredible way that is has done. People make sacrifices both to god and the earth in thanks for the food that they are able to grow.
Praying. People pray for a variety of things, however a healthy family, a spouse, children, longevity and a good future are the most common. Traditions and myths surrounding the festival do indeed vary but are formed around these three concepts. Regardless of variations, all celebrations are based around the concept of wellbeing and togetherness.
How is the festival celebrated in Vietnam? Much like the rest of Southeast Asia, Vietnam celebrates Tet Trung Thu in a unique and beautiful way. Typical of the Vietnamese festivities are colourful street parades, lantern festivals and fancy dress including dragon costumes and creative masks. Children often perform ‘Dragon Dance Parades’ which elders believe bring luck and good fortune.
Unsurprisingly, food is also an important part of the Tet Trung Thu culture. Moon cakes are a classic snack that are consistently eaten across all cultures who celebrate this special lunar event. Moon cakes are delicious thin pastries filled with lotus seeds, beans and/or orange peel. Traditional variations even have whole egg yolk within them to represent the moon, although the recipe has diversified today.
This national holiday is of great cultural significance in Vietnam and is a rare event that will last long in the memory of any visitor luck enough to be passing through at the right time. There’s plenty to learn about, including the cultural values of Vietnamese people, their family relationships, and last but by no means least – Vietnamese food.
Tips: Celebrations in coastal towns vary from more continental or rainforest regions. For example, Ha Long Bay is famous for an ocean-influenced form of celebration. The culture of local people in Ha Long Bay is such that their celebrations are also associated with the power of the sea as this is their primary source of food. Indochina Sails is a particular cruise company that allows visitors to experience the celebrations first-hand with traditional meals and décor.