Mid-Autumn Festival in Vietnam – We Are Over The Moon! | Saigon Happenings
One of our favorite cultural events in Vietnam is the radiant Mid-Autumn Festival or Moon Festival. Lanterns, children singing, sharing food- what’s not to love? Good news, it is here! And whether you’re a newbie or a long time resident, this is a festival worth knowing about. So here goes – five must-knows about Mid-Autumn Festival in Vietnam.
1. The origin of Mid-Autumn festival in Vietnam
Celebrated in various Asian countries, Mid-Autumn in Vietnam is known as Tet Trung Thu. The Vietnamese celebrate Mid-Autumn on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, which this year is on September 13th. There are several folk tales said to be the origin of this festival. But the most popular, and certainly the most romantic, is the tale of Hau Nghe and his wife Hang Nga. This story tells about the heroic Hau Nghe who saved the earth and as a reward received a bottle of magic potion that makes you immortal. He decided not to drink it, but his wife did. She did become immortal, but it also caused her to fly higher and higher until she reached the moon. There she had to spend the rest of eternity and she became the Moon Goddess.
Setting up a table with offerings outside
Her husband was so heartbroken, he set up a table outside, full with Hang Nga’s favorite food, hoping this would make her return to him. And ever since then, during the Mid-Autumn Festival in Vietnam, people offer goodies to the moon and the Moon Goddess to worship them. Well, if this is not a festival to celebrate, we don’t know what is.
Munching on Mooncakes
2. Mid-Autumn in Vietnam is all about the kids
Originally, Mid-Autumn festival was a symbol for fertility – people prayed for good harvests, increase in their livestock and for more babies. In Vietnam, over time, these prayers evolved into a festive event that is mainly for children. Kids will light up all sorts of lanterns during the night, wear funny masks and are spoiled with sweets. But don’t let this keep you from joining, you can always spoil your inner child!
3. Mooncakes are the highlight of Mid-Autumn festival
Mid-Autumn is not complete without mooncakes! During the night of Mid Autumn in Vietnam, families will set up a space in their yard and lay out the mooncakes. They will eat these, together with fruits and snacks, while enjoying the moon.
Mooncakes are traditionally made with wheat flours and stuffed with all kinds of fillings. Like sugar, sesame or red bean paste, often with an egg yolk in the middle symbolizing the moon. Nowadays, you have them in all sorts and sizes, some of them very exotic and expensive. You can buy them at places like Annam Gourmet, but there are also special mooncake stalls popping up beside the roads, like at Saigon Pearl in District 2.
4. Celebrate Mid-Autumn in Vietnam with lion dances and dragon boats
Tet Trung Thu is known for its lion dance performances. At the night of the festival, groups of children, as well as professional dancers, parade through the streets. They’ll go from door to door and ask the owners for their permission to perform the lion dance. People believe the show brings luck and fortune. Afterwards, the adults will give the children ‘lucky’ money to express their gratitude. In case you haven’t seen one before, make sure to catch one, at someones house or at Nguyen Hue. Vietnamese lion dances are one of a kind! Next to the lion dances, you can see dragon boat races and lantern fairs, as well as literary and art activities.
5. Where to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival in Saigon?
So where should you go to join the festivities in Saigon? For starters, you can visit the lantern market in District 5, stretching along Luong Nhu Hoc and Nguyen An street. You will see lanterns in all kinds of sizes, shapes and colors and be able to get a taste of some traditional Moon Festival snacks.
Another free event is the lantern parade on Nguyen Hue, complete with lion dances and musical performances. Note that you will probably not be the only one there, it can get crowded.
A popular place to get Moon festive is the Crescent lake in District 7. Normally at this time of year, locals set up a miniature Hoi An there, complete with houses with red-tile roofs, brightly lit by hundreds of colorful lanterns. Sometimes they allow you to release flower garlands on the lake at moonlight.
More Mid-Autumn events in Vietnam
For kids, there’s a Climbing the Moon event on September 15, from 10 am at Saigon Outcast. All children can ‘climb the moon’ to catch the Jade Rabbit. There will be small Mid-Autumn gifts and celebrations.
La Holista is organizing a great event to celebrate Moon festival. Their River Rituals Full moon celebration will be held over the weekend at Chi-Bu and they arrange everything: transport, accomodation, food as well as activities like yoga, swimming and more.
Another great place to celebrate Mid-Autumn is the lovely village of Hoi An, which is more or less the lantern capital of Vietnam every day of the year! Or take the family and hop over to Hanoi, Luong Van Can and Hang Ma Street in the Old Quarter will be filled with true Mid-Autumn spirit, including lanterns and lion dance.
Come on then, it’s time to light your lantern!