Vietnam’s magical Mid-Autumn Festival

Mid-Autumn Festival – or Tết Trung Thu in Vietnamese – takes place in August 15th of Lunar Year Calendar. The moon is believed to be fullest and brightest at this night.

Every festival has legends behind it. In one of the legends of the Chinese, it involves a loving couple of Houyi and Chang’er who have to leave each other in the end. Chang’er drinks the Pill of Immortality, descends to the Moon and become the Moon Goddess. Houyi who stay on the Earth, misses his wife so much he makes offering to Chang’er with her favorite fruits every year, trying to find the shape of her on the moon.


Happy little face


The Vietnamese legend adds in a character named Mr Cuội. Mr Cuội accidently finds a tree whose leaves could heal all the sickness. A wizard appears and tell Mr Cuội to take care of this precious tree, but remember to never provide it with dirty water. With this mystical tree, Mr Cuội saves many people. He falls in love with one of the people he saves. Her wife loves him a lot and helps him taking care of the precious tree. However, one day she accidently pour washing water to the tree. After that, the tree just grows higher and higher with all the leaves. Seeing that, Mr Cuội run rapidly to the tree, grabbing its branch. The tree does not stop growing though, making its way to the moon. From that day, Mr Cuội stays in the moon. People on the earth could see his silhouette on the Mid-Autumn full moon, offers him with appreciation gifts. It is told that Mr Cuội meet the Moon Lady (Chang’er) on the Moon.


Mr Cuội and the magical tree


For the current adults, Mid-Autumn Festivals were always unforgettable childhood memories. At that time, Vietnam was much less developed. Road lights are rare and the blocks are often dark and quiet. In the festival however, the moon shine bright, numerous stars and paper lanterns are held in the hands of the children, with the children lining up and singing folk songs. The evening atmosphere is added with the lively lion dances – a tradition of Vietnamese festivals. The then-children are then rewarded with Moon Cakes. Square, golden mooncakes represent the earth and round, white mooncakes representing the sky are the perfect treats on this magical night.

Lion Dance in Mid-Autumn Festival
Vietnam’s Mid-Autumn Festival in the past


Current children may not feel the magic of Mid-Autumn Festival the way their parents used to do. Still, this special date is a happy occasion for them to accompany their parents and go to the commercial centers and entertainment parks, beautifully decorated with Mid-Autumn accessories. The simple things like the lanterns and moon cakes may have evolved to a modern, more colorful versions. Their meaning however, always stay the same.

Mid-Autumn Lantern Street in Saigon in the modern time