In Vietnam, the Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as Full Moon Festival or Tết Trung Thu, is an occasion for a children’s night out and family reunions. Children enjoy art performances like singing, plays and lion dances, light up the night with colorful lanterns and enjoy mooncakes. 

A long-standing traditional festival that showcases Vietnam’s undeniable charm takes place when nature is at its breathtaking best.

For thousands of years, the Mid-Autumn Festival has been an occasion for family reunions and a children’s night out. It dates back to the Wet Rice Civilization of the Red River Delta over 4,000 years ago.

Back then, rice was harvested before the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. The festival falls on the full moon night of Lunar August, the most beautiful night of the year, when the moon is perfectly round and bright, and shines a magical golden hue.

The event takes place in the middle of the eighth lunar month. In 2022, the festival falls on 10th October. For the upcoming year, please find below in the article. Now, let's see more detail and prepare for it.

The origin of the mid-autumn festival

Many people say that Vietnam’s Mid-Autumn Festival originated from China but in fact when going into anecdotes, Vietnamese and Chinese people have different origins of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

According to the legend of China, the early form of the Mid-Autumn Festival was derived from the custom of moon worship during the Zhou Dynasty over 3,000 years ago.

In ancient China, most emperors worshiped the moon annually. Then the custom was accepted by the masses and became more and more popular over time.

The Mid-Autumn Festival in Vietnam dates back to ancient times when this event was printed on the surface of the Ngoc Lu bronze drum. According to the stele of Doi Pagoda in 1121, from the Ly dynasty, the Mid-Autumn Festival was officially held in the capital city of Thang Long with boat racing, water puppet and light procession festivals. In the Le – Trinh dynasty, the Mid-Autumn Festival was held extremely lavishly in the Lord's palace.

The Mid-Autumn Festival originated from agricultural civilization of the Vietnamese people. At this time, the air is cool, the crops are waiting to be harvested; therefore, people hold the festival and celebrated this important day.

Mr. Cuoi flying to the moon with his magical banyan tree

Our best-known tale is about a man named Cuội who hung on to a magical banyan tree as it floated up to the moon. We say that if you look closely at the full moon, you can see the shadow of a man sitting under a tree. Children parade lanterns in the streets the night of Mid-autumn Festival to help light the way to earth for Cuội from the moon.

The celebration of the harvest is an important part of Tết Trung Thu, as many Vietnamese live in rural areas and work as farmers. Tết Trung Thu marks a joyous occasion when the work is finished and there’s time to spend with loved ones.

A meaningful traditional festival

Traditionally, all members of a family would gather around a lavish tray of fruits along with moon cakes, and savor them together while admiring the full moon.

Adults would tell kids the story of Hang Nga – the beautiful daughter of the Jade Empire and Cuoi. Children would enjoy art performances including singing, plays and lion dances and then light up the night with colorful lanterns held in their little hands.

While the Chinese perform the dragon dance during this festival, the Vietnamese go for the unique unicorn dance or lion dance, which symbolizes luck, wealth and prosperity.

While children find joy playing under the full moon, adults enjoy a long-awaited family reunion, with loved ones who work far from home who take the trouble to get back for the festival.

Despite it is not being an official holiday in Vietnam, most people would spend time with their loved ones recalling events of bygone days. Above everything, the Mid-Autumn Festival has always been about one fundamental thing: love.

Mid-autumn festival means reunion & love

Sincere gratitude

In the old days, occupied with the harvesting season, parents did not have much time to take care of their children. Therefore, when the autumn approached, marking an abundant crop, they would make full use of the Mid-Autumn Festival to spend time with the kids. Children are the happiest ones at this time because parents prepare various types of lanterns, mooncakes as well as masks as presents.

Moon cakes, sweet and flavorful, have been an inseparable part of the festival, and become a symbol of close family ties. It is a long-standing tradition that people gift moon cakes during this festival, especially to parents and grandparents.

In modern times, gifting the moon cake to employees during the Mid-Autumn Festival carries great meaning. It embodies the bonds between the management cadre and their colleagues, a way for the former to express their gratitude to the latter. Most businesses, therefore, would select moon cakes made by a prestigious brand that represents high quality and attractive packaging.

How do Vietnamese people celebrate the festival?

Preparations

In the weeks before Tết Trung Thu, you will see and hear groups of lion dancers practicing on the streets. Mooncake stalls appear on every other corner, pop-ups with elaborately decorated boxes filled with a variety of mystery cakes and fillings. 

City districts team up with preparations of toys, lanterns and colourful masks in anticipation. The most popular Trung Thu lantern is a star made with red cellophane. You will see these lanterns for sale on streets all over Vietnam in the days leading up to the festival.

Prepare for the Mid-autumn festival

Main events

Worshiping the God of Earth

Usually, a worshiping platform is set up in the yard during the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival, on which mooncakes, fruit, and snacks are laid. Later, family members sit together to eat the food while appreciating the moon.

The platform is not taken down until midnight, when the food has been completely eaten. Most families also set up a special platform for children, so that they can enjoy food at any time during the evening.

Worshiping to the god of earth

Mooncake madness

All across Vietnam, families welcome Tết Trung Thu by placing a five-fruit tray and cakes on our ancestral altar. People offer the food to their ancestors and worship, before feasting on mooncakes - usually outside under the light of the moon. Round or square, these cakes are molded with elaborate details of flowers, carp, and geometric patterns.

The two most common types are bánh dẻo (soft, sticky cakes with a mochi-texture) and bánh nướng (baked cakes with a thick wheat crust). Mooncakes in Vietnam come in a seemingly infinite variety of flavours, both sweet and savoury. Feel free to buy a box of mooncakes to enjoy yourself, or to share with your Vietnamese friends and hosts.

Various types of mooncakes

Carrying Carp-Shaped Lanterns

It is also a tradition for the Vietnamese to light lanterns during the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival. A legend states that a carp spirit once killed many people during the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival, so that no household dared to go outside during that night.

Later, a wise man thought of an idea: he made a carp-shaped lantern with a stick in its belly, and then advised people to walk at night holding a carp-shape lantern. The carp spirit was terrified by the light from these lanterns and has not dared to go out to kill anyone during the Mid-Autumn Festival since then.

Nowadays, children hold various kinds of paper lanterns and play in the moonlight, while eating mooncakes during the evening of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Going out with lanterns

Watching the Lion Dance Parade

At night, groups of children parade through the streets, going from door to door and asking the owners for their permission to perform the lion dance. If it is agreed then the children will put on a show, which is believed to bring luck and fortune. Afterwards, the owners will give the children 'lucky' money for their gratitude.

These lion dances are fascinating, and huge numbers of children, ranging from little kids to teenagers, participate in this activity. As a result of having so many groups of children marching around, the streets of the cities echo with the sound of drums, as dozens of lions roam about.

Lion dance during the festival night

Where to enjoy the moon festival in Vietnam?

Below you will see the some of the best places to join the mid-autumn festivals in some big cities of Vietnam

Hanoi

Normally, there are 2 good places to admire the moon festival in Hanoi.

Thang Long Imperial Citadel

"Festive Drums of Autumn Moon" featuring images of drums of all shapes, sizes and colors arranged and displayed to remind visitors of the festive ambiance of the Vietnamese countryside will be held until Friday at the citadel, 19C Hoang Dieu Street, Ba Dinh District, to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Children can try their hand at making mooncakes, paper masks, kites, statuettes and sketches, matching pictures, and kneading dough figurines. They can also play various games.

The Old Quarter

More 10 days before the festival, the authorities will ban vehicles from certain streets in Hanoi's Old Quarter for the festival preparations and celebrations. They are not allowed to enter Hang Luoc, Hang Ruoi and Hang Chai streets and sections of Hang Ma and Hang Khoai streets from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

At the Kim Ngan Temple in Hang Bac Street, artisans will teach audiences how to make traditional toys including star lanterns, paper kites and terracotta figurines until the main events of the festival.

The Hanoi Ancient House at 87 Ma May Street will exhibit a photo collection of the Mid-Autumn Festival of Hanoi in the 20th century.

At the Cultural Exchange Center at 50 Dao Duy Tu Street, visitors will be taught traditional crafts like mask and bamboo light drawing, postcard making and painting on paper made from the bark of trees.

The Phung Hung fresco street has been attracting youths who come to take selfies among the hundreds of illuminated lanterns lined up there, which turn it into a miniature version of Shifen old town in Taiwan. 

On the evening of the main date the pedestrians-only zone around Hoan Kiem Lake will see several traditional and contemporary activities to celebrate the festival.

Hội An

Hoi An’s compact old quarter comes alive during Mid-Autumn Festival with folk games on the streets and floating lanterns on the river running through the town, making for a magical atmosphere. In the weeks leading up to the festival, Hoi An’s streets, especially those near markets, are filled with moon cakes, lanterns, lion costumes and toys. 

The sound of drumbeats fills the air as groups of lion dancers engage in mock dance battles in a contest of skills, involving the coordinated efforts of up to a dozen people performing a mixture of rhythmic dance and acrobatics. Sometimes, fireworks are even included, spewing sparks from the lion’s mouth.

Ho Chi Minh City

Here are some places to admire mid-autumne festival in Ho Chi Minh city

Phu Binh lantern-making village

This is one of the few villages in the city that still make glass paper lanterns for the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Situated in a small alley off Lac Long Quan Street in District 11, the lantern-making village was formed in the mid-1950s when artisans from the renowned craft village of Bac Co in northern Nam Dinh Province migrated to Saigon and brought their lantern-making skills. It has survived for more than half a century.

When the festival nears, dozens of families in this village are busy completing the last orders from the market.

Take a stroll around and see the red of the paper lanterns filling up the place and the bustling atmosphere as family members gather at a corner in front of their houses, decorating lanterns in various shapes and colors.  

The lantern corner in Chinatown

Stretching along Luong Nhu Hoc and Nguyen An streets of District 5 this is the largest lantern market in Ho Chi Minh City during the Mid-Autumn Festival, with almost every house and sidewalk turning into lantern shops.

The market, which was established in the 1960s, is well known for its artisans who make traditional lanterns from scarlet glass paper, considered as a special cultural trait of the Chinese community.
Take a walk alongside a bewildering range of lanterns in various sizes, shapes and colors, and treat yourself to specialty foods made by the local Chinese.

Nguyen Hue pedestrian street

There will be a lantern parade and art performances on this busy street on the day of the main events, and it will be very crowded.

Nguyen Hue, which runs up to the Saigon River, in District 1 has been receiving thousands of visitors every day since its center strip became a pedestrians-only zone since 2015. It gets particularly crowded during weekends and holidays.

When is Mid-Autumn festival?

Below is the calendar of Mid-Autumn festival until 2026.

Year Date
2021 September 21 (Tuesday)
2022 September 10 (Saturday)
2023 September 29 (Friday)
2024 September 17 (Tuesday)
2025 October 6 (Monday)
2026 September 25 (Friday)

Are moon festivals the same everywhere in Asia?

Though the similar purpose and meaning, distinctive Moon Festival celebrations across Asia add up to the diversity of humanity as a whole.

Japan

Japan has two moon festivals every year, following lunar calendar. Zyuyoga is associated with the traditional customs of "Otsukimi" (meaning watching the moon on the full moon day in autumn). For the people in the land of the rising sun, the festival is the time for them to honor the moon in the fall, the only time the moon is at its fullest.

In the Otsukimi festival, the Japanese often make Dango, a type of rice dumplings (mochiko). It is quite similar to mochi and is served with tea.

On the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, the Japanese personally hand mix flour with water, pound it to create that structure-builder before proceeds to baking.

Japanese Otsukimi festival

Dango cake is presented with a Susuki grass vase during moon festivals. Also known as tail flower, susuki is a perennial tall grass that blossoms in the autumn. The moon watching ritual cannot be done without dango cake.

The legend of Dango cake is traditionally passed on from one generation to the next on the full moon day of the 8th lunar month.

When the Jade Emperor descended from Heaven to Earth, he accidentally encountered a rabbit. The Jade Emperor was too hungry and asked for food, but the rabbit had nothing to give him. The bunny ended up jumping into the fire to become food for the Jade Emperor.

Touched by the generous act, the Jade Emperor brought the animal to the moon. From then on, on every full moon day of the eighth lunar month, the rabbit would make Dango cake on the moon and give to people on Earth.

South Korea

Moon Festival is not simply a celebration of full moon in South Korea. Chuseok festival, which literally means “Autumn Eve”, is also referred to as Korean Thanksgiving. This is the time when all family members reunite under one roof.

The harvest festival is considered one of the biggest and most important holidays in South Korea. It falls on August 15th in the lunar calenda. Traditionally, the whole family cooks together and enjoys traditional dishes like songpyeon (crescent-shaped rice cake), and sindoju wine (made with new crop rice on Chuseok).

South Korea Chuseok festival

On Chuseok, Koreans mold flours into crescent shapes. Instead of making a round cake that symbolizes full moon, Koreans believe that because crescent always becomes full moon, the shape symbolizes fertility, prosperity and happiness. After the flour is crescent molded, green beans are inserted as stuffing. The final stage involves steaming the dough with some fresh pine leaves.

Korean songpyeon comes with many colors. Apart from the typical white songpyeon, pink rice cakes get their color from strawberry, while dark green cakes from wormwood leaves, and yellow from pumpkin.

According to the legend, single women who can make beautifully shaped and delicious rice cakes will meet a compatible life partner, while married women will be blessed with wonderful offsprings.

North Korea

Also known as Autumn Night festival, the special occasion for North Koreans is also watching the full moon together. North Korea’s traditional sweet treat is crescent-shaped muffins made of rice flour. The stuffing varies, which can be green beans, jam, or apples. Alike other cultures that celebrate Moon Festival, North Koreans also gift one another moon cakes.

Thailand

The people of the land of golden temples celebrate Moon Festival with a lot of lanterns. They gather in traditional costumes and release the sky lights up in unison, as a way to pray for good wishes.

On the moon festival tray of tributes to the ancestors, Thai people always have pomelo fruit, which symbolizes reunion. Most Thai houses traditionally install an altar. Above the altar, a peach and moon cakes are placed.

By offering the peach, Thai people believe that after the Bodhisattva of Compassion receives the peach, the Gods will bless them with good things in life. That is why moon cakes in Thailand are peach-shaped.
Today, one of the most popular moon cakes in the country is the grilled moon cake with durian and salted egg stuffing, signifying the full moon.

Here is everything about Thailand Loy Krathong Festival & Chiang Mai Yee Peng Festival

Thailand Loi Krathong Festival

Similar traditions in some other Asian countries

Many festivals revolving around a full moon are also celebrated in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and India. Like the Mid-Autumn Festival, these festivals have Buddhist origins and revolve around the full moon; however unlike their East Asian counterparts they occur several times a year to correspond with each full moon as opposed to one day each year. The festivals that occur in the lunar months of Ashvini and Kṛttikā generally occur during the Mid-Autumn Festival

Cambodia

In Cambodia, it is more commonly called "The Water and Moon Festival" Bon Om Touk. The Water and Moon festival is celebrated in November of every year. It is a three-day celebration, starting with the boat race that last the first two days of the festival. 

The boat races are colorfully painted with bright colors and is in various designs being most popular the neak, Cambodian sea dragon. Hundreds of Cambodian males take part in rowing the boats and racing them at the Tonle Sap River. 

When night falls the streets are filled with people buying food and attending various concerts. In the evening is the Sampeas Preah Khe: the salutation to the moon or prayers to the moon. 

The Cambodian people set an array of offerings that are popular with rabbits, such and various fruits and a traditional dish called Ak Ambok in front of their homes with lit incenses to make wishes to the moon. 

Cambodians believe the legend Cheadok, where a rabbit lives in the moon and watches over the Cambodian people. At midnight everyone goes up to the temple to pray and make wishes and enjoy their Ak Ambok together. 

Cambodia Bon Om Touk

Cambodians would also make homemade lanterns that are usually made into the shape of the lotus flowers or other more modern designs. 

Incense and candles light up the lanterns and Cambodians make prayers and then send if off into the river for their wishes and prayers to be heard and granted.

Here is everything about Bon Om Touk Festival

Laos

In Laos, many festivals are held on the day of the full moon. The most popular festival known as the That Luang Festival is associated with Buddhist legend and is held at Pha That Luang temple in Vientiane. The festival often lasts for three to seven days. A procession occurs and many people visit the temple.

Here is the detail about That Luang Festival

Laos That Luang Festival

Myanmar

In Myanmar, numerous festivals are held on the day of the full moon; however Thadingyut Festival is the most popular one and occurs in the month of Thadingyut. It also occurs around the time of the Mid-Autumn Festival, depending on the lunar calendar. 

It is one of the biggest festivals in Myanmar after the New Year festival, Thingyan. It is a Buddhist festival and many people go to the temple to pay respect to the monks and offer food. It is also a time for thanksgiving and paying homage to Buddhist monks, teachers, parents and elders.

Here is the detail about Thadingyut Festival

Myanmar Thadingyut Festival

Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, a full moon day is known as Poya and each full moon day is a public holiday. Shops and businesses are closed on these days as people prepare for the full moon. Exteriors of buildings are adorned with lanterns and people often make food and go to the temple to listen to sermons. 

The Binara Full Moon Poya Day and Vap Full Moon Poya Day occur around the time of the Mid-Autumn Festival and like other Buddhist Asian countries, the festivals celebrate the ascendance and culmination of the Buddha's visit to heaven and for the latter, the acknowledgement of the cultivation season known as "Maha".

The Binara Full Moon Poya Day

India

Onam is an annual Harvest festival in the state of Kerala in India. It falls on the 22nd nakshatra Thiruvonam in the Malayalam calendar month of Chingam, which in Gregorian calendar overlaps with August–September. According to legends, the festival is celebrated to commemorate King Mahabali, whose spirit is said to visit Kerala at the time of Onam.

Onam is a major annual event for Malayali people in and outside Kerala. It is a harvest festival, one of three major annual Hindu celebrations along with Vishu and Thiruvathira, and it is observed with numerous festivities. Onam celebrations include Vallam Kali (boat races), Pulikali (tiger dances), Pookkalam (flower Rangoli), Onathappan (worship), Onam Kali, Tug of War, Thumbi Thullal (women's dance), Kummattikali (mask dance), Onathallu (martial arts), Onavillu (music), Kazhchakkula (plantain offerings), Onapottan (costumes), Atthachamayam (folk songs and dance), and other celebrations.

Onam is the official state festival of Kerala with public holidays that start four days from Uthradom (Onam eve). Major festivities take place across 30 venues in Thiruvananthapuram, capital of Kerala. It is also celebrated by Malayali diaspora around the world. Though a Hindu festival, non-Hindu communities of Kerala participate in Onam celebrations considering it as a cultural festival.

Sharad Purnima is a harvest festival celebrated on the full moon day of the Hindu lunar month of Ashvin (September–October), marking the end of the monsoon season.

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My name is Jolie, I am a Vietnamese girl growing up in the countryside of Hai Duong, northern Vietnam. Since a little girl, I was always dreaming of exploring the far-away lands, the unseen beauty spots of the world. My dream has been growing bigger and bigger day after day, and I do not miss a chance to make it real. After graduating from the univesity of language in Hanoi, I started the exploration with a travel agency and learning more about travel, especially responsible travel. I love experiencing the different cultures of the different lands and sharing my dream with the whole world. Hope that you love it too!

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