Falling on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month every year, Trung Thu festival (also known as Mid-Autumn festival or Moon festival) is a traditional occasion celebrated widely all across Viet Nam and many Asian countries. This festival is very typical of Vietnamese culture for its special and unique meaning.
However, there are many mistakes between Trung Thu festival in Viet Nam and Mid-Autumn festival in other countries. In this article, we will give you some interesting facts about the cultural meaning of Trung Thu and the way we celebrate it in comparison with other places
a. The Ancient Origin of Trung Thu
Vietnamese people have been celebrating Trung Thu festival for thousand years and it has become an important occasion in our cultural life. It is believed that the festival derived historically from Chinese’s Mid-Autumn festival, which is partly true. However, instead of following the legends from the Chinese, we have our own folktales associated with the festival. The most well-known story is probably the one about Cuội, who was given a sacred banyan tree to cure people, but his wife accidentally urinated on the tree. Hence, the tree began to float towards the moon, Cuội tried to pull it back down to earth but he floated to the moon with it and left stranded there.
b. Why is Trung Thu important?
In China, Japan and South Korea, Mid-Autumn festival is held to show gratitude and reverence to the Moon after harvesting, as they believe the connection between the Moon and the tide has brought a successful harvest for them. Moreover, the festival is considered to be an important occasion for family reunion. In those countries, no matter where people work or live, in this day all the members of the family have to go back home and celebrate the festival together with their love ones.
Trung Thu festival in Viet Nam has the same meaning with other Asian countries as this is the second biggest event for family reunion after Tet holiday. However, Trung Thu in our country is known as Children’s festival more than an occasion to worship the Moon. The reason for this custom is believed that the parents want to spend a day making their kids happy after a busy harvest.
c. Mid Autumn festival activities
In spite of celebrating a same festival on the same day every year, each country has their own customs and traditional activities representing for their unique culture.
Japanese people call this occasion by the name “Tsukimi festival” or “Japan’s Harvest Moon festival”, Tsukimi is also understood as the best time to observe the moon. On the evening of full moon day, family members and their friends will gather at a place where the moon can be seen clearly, decorate the scene with Japanese papas grass and beautiful lanterns. They also display Tsukimi dango (rice dumplings), taro, edamame, chestnuts and Sake wine on the altar as offerings to the Moon. The purpose of this solemnity is to pray for an abundant harvest. Moreover, many competitions are also held during the festival, such as Sumo (Japanese wrestling), tug of war, etc. for entertainment.
In Korea, the festival is widely known as “Chuseok festival” or “Korean Thanksgiving day”. This is the specific time for the Korean to show respect to their parents and ancestors. In the early morning of the Chuseok day, a feast is carefully and beautifully prepared on the altar for the deceased spirits to enjoy. Family members also gather around; eating Songpygeon and hold memorial solemnities in honor of their ancestors. Afterwards, they will go to the graveyard to pull weeds, sweep the ancestral graves and bow to show their great gratitude. Other activities also take place in this festival are wrestling, circle dance, folk music performing, etc.
At the homeland of Mid-Autumn festival – China, people prepare for this event by decorating the streets, buildings and houses with beautiful lanterns in different shapes. On the evening of that festive day, the Chinese will gather with their family at home and display various kind of food as offerrings to the Moon. After the incenses burn down, the family will enjoy the food together as a reunion dinner. Another important custom of Mid-Autumn festival in China is gazing at the full moon while enjoying Moon cake and green tea. Besides, Chinese people also light up sky lanterns and perform traditional music or dances in order to celebrate the festival.
As mentioned before, Trung Thu festival in Viet Nam is widely known as Children’s festival. Therefore, the emphasis on children is the main point that makes Trung Thu stand out. We do have the same activities as other places, such as family reuion, worshiping the Moon, gazing at the moon, but still there are many differences. Before Trung Thu, the parents will make lantern for their kids or buy from the stores if they’re too busy. On Trung Thu day, adults in family will prepare a table covered with candies, biscuits, fruits, peanuts and put in front of their house. Children, with their lantern in hand, participate in a parade along the streets. This tradition has the meaning of showing Cuội the way get back home on Earth. After the parade, kids are allowed to eat the food that their parents have prepared and play together in the yard or the playground. While the kids are playing, older people will sit around on the veranda or the pavement to eat moon cake, drink tea and have conversations. Vietnamese people also like giving presents to friends or respected ones to strengthen their relationships. The most popular gift in this occasion is a box of moon cake and green tea or jasmine tea.
(Vietnamese Moon Cake)
We have taken a closer look to figure out more about Trung Thu festival in Viet Nam, as well as Mid-Autumn festival activities in other Asian countries. Next article of the Trung Thu festival series, the Tiger will reveal how the local celebrates Tet Trung Thu in Saigon; the biggest and busiest city of Viet Nam. So much more interesting things are waiting for you; don’t forget to check it out!
By Thanh Dang