The Mid-Autumn Festival, one of the most traditional and popular family holidays in Vietnam, is enjoyed by people throughout the country, regardless of their background or economic status.
The festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month in the lunar calendar, which falls in mid-September in the Western calendar. It has evolved into an event with both cultural and commercial value.
The Vietnamese version of the Mid-Autumn Festival is similar to the one in China, except for its legend, the food and some traditional activities. Both the Han and minority nationalities in China celebrate the mid-autumn festival, though there are some additional special customs in different parts of the country, such as burning incense, planting mid-autumn trees, and lighting lanterns on towers.
In Vietnam, there are many traditional activities for both adults and children during the festival including lion dances performed by both trained professional groups and amateurs. Lion dance groups perform on the streets and go to houses asking for permission to perform for the people living there. If they are accepted by the hosts, the ‘lion’ will go in and start dancing to wish the household good luck and fortune. The Earth Lord, ‘Ong Dia’, dances around the dragon, urging it on. 'Ong Dia', who has a smiling moon-shaped face, represents the prosperity and wealth of the earth.
On the occasion of the festival, parents buy their children rattles, drums and star lanterns. Many children also take great interest in traditional paper toys, lion heads and masks of animals from old tales, as well as modern battery-run plastic ships or tanks with remote controls.
The tradition of the Mid-Autumn festival is reflected in the way the children play games. They carry beautifully ornate lanterns while singing and parading along the streets in a candlelight procession at dawn. The candles represent brightness and the procession symbolizes success in school. The lanterns come in different sizes and shapes such as fish and butterflies. There are also spinning lanterns in which candles can be inserted to represent the sun surrounded by the earth.