About Mid-Autumn Festival in Vietnam
While the Mid-autumn Festival originated in China and is celebrated in many Asian countries, the Vietnamese version has its own traditions and legends. The best-known tale is about a man named Cuoi who found a magical banyan tree that could cure the ill. Unfortunately, when his wife accidentally urinated on this sacred tree, it floated up to the moon, dragging Cuoi with it.
In the weeks before Mid-autumn Festival, you will see and hear groups of lion and unicorn dancers practicing in Vietnam’s streets. Mooncake stalls appear on every other corner, pop-ups with elaborately decorated boxes filled with a variety of mystery cakes and fillings. City districts team up with preparations of toys, lanterns and colourful masks in anticipation.
Carrying Carp-Shaped Lanterns
Carrying carp-shaped lanterns is an important custom of the Mid-Autumn Festival in Vietnam. It is also a tradition for the Vietnamese to light lanterns during the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival. A legend states that a carp spirit once killed many people during the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival, so that no household dared to go outside during that night.
Later, a wise man had an idea that he made a carp-shaped lantern with a stick in its belly, and then advised people to walk at night holding a carp-shape lantern. The carp spirit was terrified by the light from these lanterns, and has not dared to go out to kill anyone during the Mid-Autumn Festival since then. Nowadays, children hold various kinds of paper lanterns and play in the moonlight, while eating mooncakes during the evening of the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Almost Vietnamese families welcome the festival by placing a five-fruit tray and cakes on their ancestral altar. Each family will offer the food to their ancestors and worship, before feasting on mooncakes, usually outside under the light of the moon. Round or square, these cakes are moulded with elaborate details of flowers, carp and geometric patterns.
The two most common types are banh deo (soft, sticky cakes with a mochi-texture) and banh nuong (baked cakes with a thick wheat crust.) Mooncakes in Vietnam come in a seemingly infinite variety of flavours, both sweet and savour.
Watching the Lion Dance Parade
At night, groups of children parade through the streets, going from door to door and asking the owners for their permission to perform the lion dance. If it is agreed then the children will put on a show, which is believed to bring luck and fortune. Afterwards, the owners will give the children 'lucky' money for their gratitude.
These lion dances are fascinating, and huge numbers of children, ranging from little kids to teenagers, participate in this activity. As a result of having so many groups of children marching around, the streets of the cities echo with the sound of drums, as dozens of lions roam about.