Culture Highlight: Tết Trung Thu, Vietnam's Mid-Autumn Festival
As summer ends, what awaits us are the exciting autumn holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving here in the U.S. For our au pairs from Vietnam, a similar harvest-time holiday is Têt Trung Thu, the Mid-Autumn Festival which happens every September or October, depending on the year’s lunar month. Also known as the Children's Festival, Têt Trung Thu is an opportunity for Vietnamese families to gather and celebrate mid-autumn together.
The Mid-Autumn celebration has a long history that begins with children. In Vietnam, children are considered the purest and closest existence to nature. To honor this, Têt Trung Thu celebrations are especially designed for children to celebrate, and kids often carry fish-shaped lanterns in marching groups during the mid-autumn festival. This tradition of carrying fish-shaped lights originates from a story of a young wise man named Cuội. In the story, he suggests people should carry these colorful lanterns with them so that during mid-autumn, a legendary scary fish monster would pass over them and.
The timing of Têt Trung Thu is also steeped in history. Traditionally, adults would have to work hard during the rice harvest before the middle of 8th Lunar month. Now, parents try their best to spend time with their children during this festival which takes place after the harvest. Delicious mooncakes and entertaining ‘lion dances’ are also part of Têt Trung Thu festivities. Some children or teenagers join traditional lion-themed dancing themselves and ask people door-to-door if they would like to watch them perform. This is similar to the American Halloween practice of ‘trick or treating' - in both holiday traditions, adults will show gratitude with candy or in the case of Têt Trung Thu, with small amounts of lucky money to celebrate the young dancers’ performance.
During the festival, parents buy their children not only the colorful lanterns but also various types of sweet snacks and colorful masks. One snack is the mooncake, which takes its name from the full moon shape. Traditional mooncake’s round shape also implies the idea of family reunion. Têt Trung Thu is not only children’s favorite festival, but also a time for the whole family to appreciate the brightest moon and harvest altogether.
Ask your Vietnamese au pair to share how they celebrated this amazing festival when they were younger, or if they are continuing to celebrate in the United States!