Tet Trung Thu: A Festival Guide
By the light of the harvest moon
econd only to Vietnam’s new year festival Tet, the Mid-Autumn Festival (Tet Trung Thu) is a colourful, exciting festival held in celebration of the end of the harvest, a joyful time when parents can relax and do something special for their children.
Like all of Vietnam’s festivals, the date on which it falls varies with the lunar calendar (the 15th day of the 8th lunar month) - often in late September or early October, after the harvest season.
A legend associated with the Mid-Autumn Festival is of Chu Cuoi and Hang Nga (the moon fairy). Both are believed to have been taken from the earth, all the way up to the moon - Chu Cuoi on the branch of a magical banyan tree and Hang Nha, a lonely bride who transformed into a fairy and flew to the moon. It’s said that during the harvest full moon if you gaze hard enough you can see them sitting together under the banyan tree, so on the night of Tet Trung Thu and in the hope of guiding Chu Cuoi and Hang Nha back down to earth, village children bear animal-shaped masks and carry star lamps and paper lanterns to help lead the way.
Tet Trung Thu: Hoi 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 drum beats fill 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.
Tet Trung Thu 2018: 22nd - 24th September
In the days leading up to the festival Song Hoai Square will be the main focal point. On the run-up a host of traditional harvest festival performances will be held: colourful lion dance competitions, magicians and ancestral table displays. On the third night, the eve of the full moon the lantern festival will be held.
Here's our pick of the best festival action and puddle splashing activities to fill your days.
If you haven't mastered your camera settings yet your priority should be procuring a place on one of Hoi An Photo Walks excellent tours. The tours are run by the ever patient Pieter who's talents include a natural affinity and understanding of local customs and culture, an uncanny talent at unravelling (and breaking down) the mysteries of manual settings, along with tips on composition, light, how to see photographically.. all the ingredients that set you up with the confidence, swagger and gift of the gab to capture picture-perfect memories of your adventure. Book the Heart of the City tour and you'll also be privy to some of the best secret shortcuts to avoid the festival crowds. http://hoianphotowalks.com
While it can feel like every day is a festival in the build-up to Têt Trung Thu, the main events this year will be held outside of the old town (be warned, it's also a big draw for locals so things can get hectic). The party gets started in the smaller, neighbouring villages in the late afternoon as the village children bear masks depicting Hang or Chu and set off on a twilight procession carrying handcrafted lanterns in the shapes of the stars and the moon. As darkness sets in the children disperse to make way for the professional lion and dragon dancing crews, who provide pop-up street entertainment with a traditional dance-off between lion and fan wielding tamers bestowing luck upon local homes and business venues.
Tip: The best photo ops are with the mini lion dance performances provided by cute local kids on the streets and in some restaurants, line their pro-offered fan with a few dong and you'll be rewarded with a good luck dance of your own.
If you don't want the party to end, head out on Vietnam Vespa Adventures Streets and Eats night tour. It's a food lovers paradise with an aperitif of La Rue, a fun fuelled adventure for the culinary curious - taking you on a journey filled with softly glowing lanterns, secret hot pot hot spots with your very own chauffeur and a knowledgeable guide to introduce you to Hoi An's lesser known (but incredibly talented) pavement and patio chefs.
In prime position for drinking in the view, the newly refurbed (it’ll knock your socks off, and then some) Mango Mango, serves up some of the most exciting contemporary cuisine in Central Vietnam. We're focusing on Chef Duc's creative cocktails (three words - Sangria Del Passion) served up in the colourful dining room or on the elegant river-view terrace, which is particularly spectacular as the Hoi An horizon sparkles into life and locals light candles in lotus-shaped hoa dang (ceremonial paper lanterns) to float down the Thu Bon River.
45 Nguyen Phuc Chu, An Hoi
For family fun consider taking to Hoi An's waterways with Hoi An Kayak Tours or make the most of the less humid climes on an action-packed cycling adventure with Grass Hopper tours. Eat Hoi An offer a great street food tour where kids under six go free (and under twelves for half-price). Rainy days are made for testing out your knife skills (maybe not so for the kids) with a cooking class - our favourite is with Herbs & Spices who have a beautiful cooking school a two-minute walk from the old town.
Further afield, the Marble Mountains offer a good half day of Indiana Jones worthy cave explorations, My Son is at its greenest and should the rain come and the kids complain, Bana Hills is armed with some good underground theme park action Read more