Today is Moon Day.
If you are lucky to be in Asia, you’ll see many beautiful lanterns everywhere. Perhaps you’ll even catch a glimpse of children donning colorful masks.
And let’s not forget the Moon Cake. It’s virtually impossible to miss them during this time of the year. Maybe you even received some.
I sure have. In fact I have received several. Unfortunately I can’t identify the filling. But I think it’s beans and chicken.
But what is moon day? Well if you grew up in the west, you likely never heard of it. Neither did I. But the last few days I learnt a lot about this interesting holiday, also known as Mid-Autumn Festival.
And to enlighten my fellow western man I have written an article. With the focus on how it’s celebrated here in Vietnam.
Mid-Autumn Festival In Vietnam
In ancient times, Mid-Autumn Festival was a harvest festival celebrated by the Chinese. It takes its name from the fact that it is always celebrated in the middle of the autumn season. Traditionally it’s held on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar.
As Chinese immigrants and influence spread through South East Asia, other countries and ethnicities adopted the festival. Today it’s celebrated in countries such as Malaysia, Philippines, Cambodia, Singapore, Laos and Vietnam. In Vietnam, where I am right now, it’s known as Tet Trung Thu, or Moon Day and is considered a very important holiday. In fact Mid-Autumn Festival in Vietnam is the second-most important holiday tradition after Tet, the Chinese new year.
Furthermore, moon worship has always been a central part of the festival celebrations. It’s believed that the ancient Chinese observed that the movement of the moon was closely related with changes of the seasons and agricultural production. Hence, to express their gratitude to the moon and celebrate the harvest, they offered sacrifices to the moon.
Today, Tet Trung Thu is an important family holiday. It’s an opportunity for family members to take a break from their busy lives and gather at each others houses. In addition to eating moon cakes, the families observes the bright full moon and the children receives beautifully decorated lanterns.
Moon cakes, or Bánh Trung Thu, is a special food during the Mid-Autumn Festival in Vietnam. It’s origin is from China but today you’ll find many local variations.
In Vietnam, the moon cake is a round pastry measuring about 10 cm in diameter and 3–4 cm thick. The filling is usually made from green bean, lotus seed paste, different kind of meats or fish. On the top you will find Chinese imprints describing the filling. Sometimes there are other characters symbolizing for example “harmony”.
Moon cake is a popular gift to relatives, friends or business partners during this time of the year. It’s meant to be shared and the round shape symbolizes family unity.
The price for moon cakes have been inflated in recent years. In particular at the beginning of the season when they sell for 50k to 100k Vietnamese Dong, about $2 to $5. In a country where the average monthly salary is $300 this is very expensive. But the price will gradually decline by the end of the season due to many promotions.
In addition, many hotels and restaurant chains are selling their own brand of moon cakes. Just the other day I noticed they are even selling them at Mcdonalds. With the iconic logo of course!
So do I like moon cakes? Yes actually I find them pretty tasty. They are a bit on the sweet side which I like. In addition they are very calorie heavy. Just the other day I ate a quarter of a moon cake and got full. I recommend to give them a try if you get the chance.
Another common sight during Mid-Autumn Festival in Vietnam is the many lanterns. Especially at night they beautifully lit up the cities in many different colors.
Traditionally, lanterns signified the wish for the sun’s light and warmth to return after winter, but today they are considered the most exciting activity of the Mid-Autumn Festival.
You will see many children walking around town singing moon day songs and carrying lanterns. And you will notice the lanterns have many shapes and forms. Some have traditional shapes like stars, lotus, moon or an animal. Others have more modern shapes like popular Disney characters.
A decade ago it was common to see lanterns made from paper and lit with live candles. In addition, children from poor families, who could not afford real lanterns used beer cans instead. But today, due to safety, children mostly use electronic lanterns.
Happy Moon Day!
Did you like reading my article about the Mid-Autumn Festival in Vietnam?
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