The Vietnamese Mid-Autumn festival is a unique cultural experience travelers should consider taking part in if they are visiting Vietnam during the time it is celebrated. This article will give you some information about what to expect and where you can take part in festivities throughout the country.

Vietnamese Mid-Autumn Festival & Its Origin

There are many legends about the Mid-Autumn Festival, but for the Vietnamese, the tale of Uncle Cuoi is the most important. This uncle was a normal woodcutter, he cut down trees in the forest for a living. One day, Cuoi saw tiger cubs on the road, and because of his survival instinct, he decided to kill them. Right after, the tiger mother appeared, but what happened next left him dumbstruck. The tiger mother approached a mysterious tree, picked up some leaves, and gave them to her cubs. Suddenly, her cubs revived and acted like normal. Uncle Cuoi decided to bring the tree to his home, and on the way home, he used its leaves to save an old man’s life. The old man told Uncle Cuoi that he must pour pure water into the tree every day, or else it will fly into the sky and never come back.

vietnamese mid autumn festival
Uncle Cuoi | Photo: soha.vn

Unfortunately, it wasn’t Uncle Cuoi who could not keep his promise. His loyal wife was too absent-minded and she carelessly poured dirty water on the magic tree. Because of this, the tree was about to launch into the sky. Cuoi went home and upon seeing the tree, he grasped on tightly, but it was too late. He was taken with the tree up to the moon and never came back home again.

Uncle Cuoi has played an important role in every child’s life in Vietnam.  Every Mid-Autumn festival, the Vietnamese children love playing with Uncle Cuoi. They’re passionate about magic, tales, and fantasy. I don’t know about you, but Uncle Cuoi has made my childhood so colorful and meeting him can make me incredibly happy for an entire day.

When is the Vietnamese Mid-Autumn Festival?

The Vietnamese Mid-Autumn Festival kicks off in the middle of the fall during the full moon night of Lunar August. This is the most beautiful night of the year when the moon is perfectly round and bright in its shining gold. This is when the weather turns a little cooler after the unpleasantly hot summer. Traditionally, the 15th of Lunar August is the highlight of the festival which is regarded as Tet Doan Vien – Family Union holiday. This is the Vietnamese children’s favorite festival in Vietnam. Older generations as well look forward to the day to enjoy seeing their descendants having fun under the shining golden moon.

Just as American children get excited when Halloween comes a Vietnamese share the same excitement for the Mid-Autumn festival. October and Lunar August seem to be a favorite time of all children of all cultures.

Trung Thu, the Vietnamese translation for the Mid-Autumn festival has been the word that people call and keep mentioning over and over again before and during the festive time especially the Vietnamese children. The festival falls on the full moon night of Lunar August which is the most beautiful night all year round, when the moon is perfectly round and bright in its magically shining gold.

The Traditions:

Trung Thu, the Vietnamese translation for the Mid-Autumn Festival, will ring through the streets as people call its name over and over again before and during the festive time, you will notice that the Vietnamese children are the culprits. In Vietnam, Mid-Autumn Festival hasn’t been approved as an official holiday and children do not have a day off from school to celebrate it but they are always super excited to enjoy a night packed with fun. As with Christmas or Halloween, this night sees all the magic.

Mid-Autumn Festival in vietnam
Moon cake and tea are the signature dishes of Trung Thu

The mid-autumn day is also the time for the local people to show respect to their ancestors. There is an annual and traditional worshipping ceremony, and in addition to mooncakes, the worshipping tray also includes fruits carefully selected and arranged. Depending on the region, the presentation of the Mid-Autumn Festival has many different fruits, from grapefruit, custard apple, pomegranate, guava, and orange to pineapple, watermelon, dragon fruit, and grapes. No matter what kind of fruit is displayed, the tray needs to be interlaced with colors, such as purple grapes matching with red apples. As long as you follow these rules, you will end up with a worthy tray full of delectable fruits in a variety of colors!

Read more: The Most Delicious Fruits of Vietnam and Where to Find Them

vietnamese moon cake
Lion Dance on Mid Autumn Festival

Also on this occasion, people also bring tea and traditional alcohol to show their commemoration. It is a great opportunity for children and grandchildren to express their gratitude to parents and grandparents. My favorite part of this holiday is the lion dance, a folk dance that originated in China that stands for wealth, success, happiness, and more. You will see children practicing in the month before the festival in their neighborhoods. Many families will even invite the performers to their home on Mid-Autumn Festival.

Activities

Just as American children get excited when Halloween is around the corner, the Vietnamese share the same excitement for Mid-Autumn Festival. The Vietnamese Mid-Autumn Festival has many different features compared to the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival. According to Vietnamese custom, parents show their children how to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival. They buy and make all kinds of candles and lanterns to hang in the house and let the children light their lamps.

lion dancing vietnam
Photo: baodongnai.com.vn

After school, children go home full of excitement, they just can’t wait to grab their colorful lantern, light it up, and gather with their neighborhood to walk around the village and play folk games. People believe that Uncle Cuoi and Sister Hang – the Vietnamese version of Santa Claus, will bring fun and happiness to children as well. Vietnamese children love these two imaginary characters. In addition, mooncake is something you must try! Typical moon cake is round, made from wheat flour with a rich and thick filling, including mashed beans, fruits, sausage, and salted duck egg yolk.

A starry night and tasty cakes, I consider this to be the best start to a nice conversation. Vietnamese adults when reflecting on their childhood often recall that they could not concentrate on their studies during the day of the festival. Instead of focusing on their homework, they would rather chit chat and make plans for the great night ahead. Some will show off their lanterns, others also bring mooncake to class to share with their buddies. Teachers become less tough and more sympathetic to their students as they recognize the magnitude of the day.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is a very meaningful custom. It is a time of care, filial piety, gratitude, friendship, reunion, and love. Try to maintain and develop this beautiful message.

So Where Should You Go for Mid-Autumn Festival (Trung Thu)?

In general, almost every city in Vietnam celebrates Mid-Autumn Festival, so if you’d love to join one of them, just head to any park nearby! Below are the biggest and most well-known spots to celebrate the festival, so check them out:

Mid-Autumn Festival in Hoi An:

Hoi An is and always will be my perfect answer and suggestion for you. If you are able to travel to one of the most beautiful old towns in Vietnam, then you will be very lucky. To enjoy the best of Hoi An right on the occasion of the Mid-Autumn celebration is a rare opportunity. The colorful town lit up by hundreds of thousands of lanterns and floating paper lamps will absolutely amaze you. The stunning magical lights do a great job coloring the streets, houses, and even the beautiful Thu Bon river running along the town edge.

Mid-Autumn Festival in Saigon:

  1. Lương Nhữ Học Lantern Street
mid autumn festival celebration ho chi minh city
Lantern street in District 5 | Photo: Internet

Located in District 5, this street has been the focal point for the festival. You will experience huge crowds and colors surrounding the bright lantern stores on both sides of the alley. Beautiful lanterns of all types and shapes are in every single store attracting customers and visitors. Everyone that passes by the street can’t help taking home a little lantern. If not, they will at least take some photos of this fascinating spectacle.

  1. Suoi Tien, Dam Sen themed parks

If you have children, these two cultural theme parks are definitely worth your consideration. These two places are not as big as international giants like Universal Studio or Disney Land. However, for years, they have been one of the most favorite destinations of local kids and their parents during special occasions like Tet (Vietnamese Lunar New Year), summer break, or Mid-Autumn Festival.

I hope this article helps in planning your celebrations. Let us know about your plans and the outcome in the comments!

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival to all the kids in Vietnam and those who used to be kids!

Read more: The Ultimate Travelers Guide to Vietnam Tet Holiday, Overview of Holidays in Vietnam, Hue Traditional Craft Festival

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As a tour guide myself, I have great opportunities to travel to different places from which I have learned a lot about the world out there. Therefore, traveling, in my perspective, is a perfect way to complete ourselves. A couple of months ago, I started out writing about my travel experiences as a way to share my loved Vietnam to the world. I find it so exciting to be able to turn passion into something practical which somehow can benefit readers who love traveling. Well, I think that is all about me! Life is simply short, just enjoy it! :)

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