Vietnam’s August Moon Festival: Tet Trung Thu
By Lan Nguyen
Tet Trung Thu is celebrated on the eighth month of the lunar calendar, when the moon is supposed to be at its roundest and largest. The full moon represents fullness and prosperity of life.
The festival is more popularly known as the Children’s Festival in Vietnam. Traditionally, the festival marked the end of the harvest season. The festival was a way for families to reunite and for parents to dote on their children, to make up for their absence due to working on the harvest. Today, Tet Trung Thu continues to uphold the tradition of family togetherness and the celebration of children.
During the day, families gather to burn incense and make offerings to honor their ancestors. At night, children eagerly gather around the adults to eat moon cake and hear folktales of a carp who transformed into a dragon after years of hard work. Elders tell the story to encourage children to work hard so that they may become whatever they wanted to be.
Other Tet Trung Thu legends include Cuoi who possessed a banyan tree that can heal people. Unfortunately, Cuoi’s wife desecrated the tree, causing it to uproot itself and fly to the moon. The banyan tree brought Cuoi with it when he failed to pull it back down. At night, adults and children would look to the moon to see Cuoi sitting beneath the banyan tree.
Children sing songs about the festival and dragon dances fill the streets. The dancers go to homes and shops to ask owners for permission to dance for them. The dragon dance brings prosperity and good luck to the consenting owners. To express their gratitude, owners give them money in red envelopes. Moon cakes are given to family and friends while some children are even gifted with toys. Moon cakes and lanterns are created into different sizes and shapes. Some are traditionally circular, while others are shaped into carps, stars, rabbits, etc. At night children light their lanterns to show Cuoi the way home.
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