[Newsletter | August 2023] – All About The Vietnamese Mid-Autumn Festival

I. Origin and Legend of Vietnamese Mid-Autumn Festival

Every year on the full moon of August 15 of the Lunar calendar (September 29 on the 2023 solar calendar), Vietnamese people, especially children, are happy to welcome the Mid-Autumn Festival (also known as the Reunion Festival) under the brightest moon of the year. No one knows where and when the origin of this festival started; however, there are several legends surrounding the Mid-Autumn Festival. The most famous one today is the Legend of the Man on the Moon. Let’s learn about this legend with Noble Network!

Lion Dance on the Vietnamese Mid-Autumn Festival

Legend of the Man on the Moon

Once upon a time, there was a woodcutter named Cuoi. One day Cuoi went to the forest and suddenly met a tiger cub rushing up. Unable to avoid it, he had to risk his life to swing his ax to fight the tiger. The tiger was young and inexperienced, so it was cut by Cuoi and rolled to the ground. Just then, the mother tiger arrived. Cuoi hurriedly threw the ax and climbed up a tree. Looking down from above, Cuoi saw the mother tiger running to a nearby bush, grabbing a few leaves to chew for her baby’s wound. A few minutes later, the tiger cub opened its eyes, wagged its tail, and came back to life. After waiting for the mother tiger to take her cubs to another place, Cuoi went to the special bush, dug up some of the roots, and brought it home to plant.

Since having a precious medicinal plant, Cuoi has saved many lives. Once, Cuoi saved the daughter of a rich man and was approved to marry her. Cuoi and his wife lived together very peacefully. But one day, Cuoi’s wife slipped and fell, breaking her head, Cuoi covered her head with medicinal leaves but she never woke up. Loving his wife, Cuoi molded a new brain out of mud and then reapplied it to his wife’s head with the medicinal plant. Unexpectedly, Cuoi’s wife came back to life as usual. But since then, the wife suffers from amnesia.

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Once, Cuoi’s wife forgot her husband’s instructions and used dirty water to water the medicinal plants. Right after she finished watering, the medicinal plant flew up to the sky. Just getting home and seeing this, Cuoi jumped up and grabbed the tree roots. But the medicinal plant kept flying up, dragging Cuoi to the surface of the moon.

Today, when we look up at the moon, we still see Cuoi sitting under a precious medicinal tree.

The Legend of the Man on the Moon was created ages ago based on the imagination of the Vietnamese people who then lacked the support of scientific means to explain the images formed by the rough patches seen on the full moon. The moon patches were imagined to have a connected form that looks like a person sitting under a precious medicinal plant, especially on the full moon day in August of the lunar calendar. The story of Cuoi has been passed down by word of mouth for generations and has been officially taught in textbooks for primary school students in Vietnam.

II. Activities at the Vietnamese Mid-Autumn Festival

1, Celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival with traditional star shapes lantern

“On Mid-Autumn Festival, I carry the lantern out to play…” The familiar melodies kept echoing through the roads of villages and alleys along with the chirping sounds of children carrying lanterns. In the hand of every child, there is a lantern with a diversity of shapes: star, carp, etc. Traditional lanterns are made from bamboo frames in the shape of stars, glued with colored plastic paper, with a candle added inside to create light. Today, lanterns are transformed into many different shapes and materials, and gradually the custom of celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival with lanterns is no longer as vibrant as in the past. However, the star-shaped lanterns remain a symbol of a Mid-Autumn Festival night that Vietnamese children always look forward to every August.

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Carp lanterns

2, Deal out the tray of offerings

On the evening of the 15th, around 9 – 10 pm, people bring a tray of offerings to their house yard or porch to offer to the Moon, the Buddhas, and their ancestors, which also conveys their best wishes and hopes for life, and for everyone in the house. The offerings vary depending on the regions or the circumstances of each family. However, the indispensable items in a moon-watching tray include incense, candles, fruits, moon cakes, and star-shaped lanterns. When the moon is at its peak and brightest, everyone in the family gathers around the tray to deal out the offerings. They share fruits and mooncakes and enjoy the peaceful and cozy atmosphere of the Mid-Autumn Festival together.


3, Lion dance

The Lion dance is one of the indispensable and most anticipated activities in the Mid-Autumn Festival. Legend has it that at the beginning of the world, Lion was a very ferocious beast, preferring to attack humans. Every year it appeared to wreak havoc on every Mid-Autumn Festival. Maitreya Buddha, transformed into Mr. Dia, fed Lion with reishi grass and subdued it, turning it into a gentle beast that only eats plants and no longer disturbs humans. Since then, every year Mr. Dia takes Lion to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival with everyone and gives blessings, luck, and warmth to every family.

The dance consists of a person wearing a colorful paper or fabric lion head and dancing to the beat of a drum. Attached to the head of the lion is the tail which is made of a long piece of cloth, held by a person behind and follows the dance of the lion’s head.

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In many rural areas, many very creative and skillful children can make their own lion heads out of bamboo and paper and then paint them colorfully. They form a small group, including a few people who take turns dancing the lion, one person playing the drum, and one playing the role of Mr. Dia. They go from house to house to perform the lion dance and ask for gifts (usually cash). The amount will be totaled and divided equally among all members in the group.

Lion dance with Mr. Dia

III. Meaning of Mid-Autumn Festival

For thousands of years, people have always believed that there is a connection between life and the moon. The full moon is a symbol of union and reunion. Since then, the Mid-Autumn Festival – when the moon is at its brightest – is also known as the Reunion Festival.

On this happy day, according to Vietnamese custom, all family members wish to gather together to make offerings to their ancestors.

When night falls and the ground is filled with golden moonlight, the villagers gather to drink green tea, eat moon cakes, and watch the moon; the children play together, celebrate the festival with the lanterns, watch the lion dance, and deal out trays of offerings,…

In addition to entertaining children and adults, the Mid-Autumn Festival is also an opportunity for people to watch the moon predict crops and national destiny. If the autumn moon is yellow, that year will have a great silkworm season; if the autumn moon is green or blue, there will be natural disasters; and if the autumn moon is bright orange, the country will prosper.

Noble Network hopes that the article has provided interesting information, helping you better understand the culture and people of Vietnam and love this beautiful S-shaped country more.

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