The time of the year has come to celebrate one of the most prominent and exciting festivals of Vietnam. Mid-Autumn festival is originated from China and is celebrated in several other countries across Asia. The main date of this annual event is the middle of eighth lunar month, thus the date is different each year and this year is on the 13th September 2019.
Each country celebrates this occasion in their own traditions. Mooncake is the eminent symbol of Mid-Autumn festival in China and also in Vietnam. In Korea, it is one of the two biggest annual holidays when families gather for celebration and thanksgiving.
Vietnam has its own charm and traditions during this festival. It is also known as the Full Moon Festival or Children’s Festival in Vietnam. It is called Trung Thu (literally translated as Middle of Autumn) in Vietnamese. Traditionally, Mid-Autumn festival also carries a meaning of welcoming the cool breezy autumn days after long and harsh summer days of agricultural work and is an occasion to appreciate harvest from their hard work.
For Vietnamese people, it is a long-lasting (dating back thousands of years) historical annual festival where families prepare food trays on altars at home to pay respect and gratitude to their ancestors for all the fortunes. In modern days, this festival has shifted its focus on children to be involved in traditional games, performances and toys to play under the astonishing full moon glare.
Performances, Games and Toys
There will be dragon dances, colourful masks and star-shaped lanterns everywhere filled with live music, singing and children’s laughters. Star-shaped lanterns are for children to hold and run after the dragon dance performances on the streets.
If you’re in Hanoi, it is best to go to the streets in the Old Quarter to dive right into its main stage. Usually, the preparation and celebration of Mid-Autumn festival begins a week or more before the main date. This year, parts of the ancient town of Hanoi are transformed into walking streets from 30th August to 13th September.
The main shopping street for all kinds of holidays and events is Hàng Mã street and this is where you can go and check out the shiny and glamorous masks and lanterns for this occasion. You can find cultural and traditional activities on Phùng Hưng street where you and your children can participate in painting masks and making toys for the festival. The Heritage House on Mã Mây street is also a recommended place to visit during this time as well as normal days to take a glance at Vietnamese history.
The walking streets consist of several areas where vehicles from electric bikes to cars are forbidden from 7AM to 10PM during the period and they are Hang Mã, Hang Lược, Hàng Rươi, Hàng Chai, Hàng Khoai streets. The Phùng Hưng street between intersections of Lê Văn Linh – Phùng Hưng and Hàng Cót – Phùng Hưng will be closed for cars and motorbikes from 7AM until midnight on 6-8th and 13th September.
You’ll want to visit all of these places to ensure that you can take in as much with your eyes and cameras every corner. And you can be assured that there will be a huge feast of Mid-Autumn specific treats as well as street foods to keep you pumped to continue your adventure!
Feast & Treats
As mentioned above, mooncake is the renowned symbol of Mid-Autumn festival and as the name resembles its other name, Full Moon festival, it is usually a round shape. But there are square-shaped mooncakes and can be in many different colours. The texture can be sticky or flaky and soft and it can be savoury or sweet. There’s a great variety of different ingredients in the filling such as egg yolk, nuts, syrup etc.
In Vietnam the mooncakes are called bánh Trung Thu meaning mid-autumn cake. There are two types of Vietnamese mooncakes – bánh nướng and bánh dẻo. Bánh nướng is the baked mooncake (usually brown colour) and bánh dẻo is sticky mooncake made of sticky rice flour.
It is quite heavy and filling, which might put off some people from trying, but it is definitely worth having a bite of the “moon” and all its glory and historical value. Shopping for mooncake to try will be a fabulous experience because they just look so pleasing to the eyes with their sophisticated, yet exquisite pattern on top. You’ll be able to find pop-up stalls and shops selling a wide range of mooncakes as well as street food stalls ready to fulfill the desires of all those foodies in town.
Other than the Hanoi’s French quarter, there is Thong Nhat Park not too far from Hoan Kiem district where a market of gifts and celebrations takes place from 7th to 13th September. It can be a great alternative or add-on to see a more local atmosphere of Mid-Autumn festival.
You can also join the very unique and vibrant scenes in other cities such as Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh. In Hoi An, you’ll be awed with the charming and warm lights lit from candles floating on the river and lanterns throughout the old town. In Ho Chi Minh city, you can go to Cho Lon district, which is the central hub for this festival and check out the Lương Như Hộc street for festive goods.