Time: ¬†September 12th (15th day of the eighth lunar month)
Place: Every family
Objects of worship: The Moon
Characteristics: Feast of banh nuong and banh deo (pastries), procession of lights, lion dance
For a long time, Vietnam and some other Asian countries who follow the rite of worshipping the Moon Genie, welcome the Mid-Autumn Festival on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. This is the time when the moon is full, the farm work is at rest, and the weather is cool and fresh. Apart from the Lunar New Year, the Mid-Autumn Festival is the most impressive event for the Vietnamese, particularly the children. There is no other event in the year other than this festival that provides them with as much entertainment, toys, cakes, candies, and fruit.
About half a month before the event, various kinds of colourful items, mostly cakes, candies and toys, are displayed for sale along the streets, in the shops and at the markets. Everyone, both domestic and foreign, is eager to go either shopping or sight-seeing. On the festive day, some families cook outstanding food to offer their ancestors during the daytime. In the evening, the mid-autumn festive party is prepared with cakes, candies and fruits. Cakes are various, but a "must" is the banh deo (glutinous-rice dumplings) and banh nuong (cakes) in the shape of the moon and fish. Fruit, including longans, simmons, bananas, grapefruits, etc., are also abundant and diverse.
The Festival is exceptionally interesting for the children who play happily with the bright new toys. The toys are made from various different forms: the lion lead, the animal in folk tales and stories. The lanterns are colourful and of various kinds, such as the rabbit, the carp, etc. Besides traditional carton paper toys, plastic and bamboo plates, ships, tanks, etc. made of plastics with batteries and having remote controls are also on sale. This is understandable due to the economic improvements of the people. Whether organized in the city or countryside, the preserved tradition of the Mid-Autumn Festival is reflected in the way the children play games such as seek-and-hide, lion dancing, lantern marching, etc.
The welcome-the-moon party in the evening is a good opportunity for the children not only to enjoy the food, but also to learn more from their grandparents and parents. They are told how to prepare the party in the most attractive way. To decorate the party, there is always a "doctor" made of paper or dough, which reminds the children of the high achievements to be obtained in their studies. The time to start enjoying the party is solemnly shared by the whole family and becomes the most sacred moment of the Mid-Autumn Festival. In the bright moonlight, clear sky and fresh environment, everybody is relaxed with a pure and detached joy.
Lion dances are also thought to ensure good fortune. Accompanied by gongs and bells, a man in a huge lion mask is followed by a train of children who carry a long cloth tail. This dance is based on a legend about an old woman who was caught by a lion on the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival. She asked the lion to allow her to attend the evening's festivities, promised to return the next day and accepted her fate. The lion agreed and the woman joined her neighbors in celebration. Come morning, she remembered her predicament and began to cry, at which time the gods intervened and sent a magical snake to save her. The dance is a recreation of the fight between the snake and the gullible hon.