Hong Nguyen, Remote Year's Experience Manager in Hanoi, shares her local perspective on how the Full Moon Festival is celebrated in her hometown.
Hong Nguyen is a Remote Year Experience Manager in Hanoi, Vietnam. Experience Managers curate unique, local Tracks™ events and provide local tips to Remotes (Remote Year participants). Hong was born and raised in Hanoi but has lived in Europe for an extended period of time. She enjoys exploring different cultures and traditions around the world. In this piece, she shares her local perspective on how the Full Moon Festival, or Tết Trung Thu in Vietnamese, is celebrated in her hometown.
Every year on the 15th of the eighth month in the Lunar Calendar, people in Vietnam celebrate Tết Trung Thu, or the Full Moon Festival. Like many other countries that fell under Chinese occupation or influence, Vietnam has been celebrating this tradition for thousands of years. It’s become one of the most important holidays for Vietnamese families.
In ancient times, people celebrated the end of a long harvest season by worshipping and giving thanks to the mountain deities and the moon, whom they believed brought them successful harvests. Everyone gathered around the home to eat, celebrate, and admire the moon at its biggest and brightest time during the year. The round moon represented the fullness and prosperity of life.
As a society based on agriculture, families still gather today to enjoy the fruits of their harvest and to admire the bright moonlight together. However, even away from the fields, the tradition is heavily celebrated today, with numerous activities and festivities centered around children.
Similar to the Lunar New Year celebration, people in Vietnam start preparing for the Full Moon celebration about two weeks in advance. Hanoi comes to life as pop-up stores selling mooncakes and children’s toys emerge special for the occasion.
On the day, the celebration usually includes a Dragon Dance. In the past, this ritual was to show appreciation for the Dragon God that brings water for the successful harvest. Children are always the most excited for this part of the Festival. They put on masks and costumes, receive toys and lanterns, and parade around the neighborhood with their new costumes and gifts.
For adults, the most meaningful aspect of the Festival is the opportunity to gather around with family, enjoying mooncakes, tea and seasonal fruits like pomelo and Vietnamese persimmon while admiring the brightest moon of the year together.
This is the first year that Remote Year will have a program in town during the Full Moon Festival. It’s even more special that it’s a 4-month program in the first month of their journey (Rumi). In ancient times, Vietnamese people away from home during the Festival would gaze longingly at the moon and find comfort in the fact that their loved ones were gazing at the same moon. It is a warm reminder that we are so blessed in Remote Year to have our faraway loved ones in our hearts, as well as the comfort of a “tramily” (travel family) while traveling the world. This year, as we gather in Hanoi to enjoy traditional Full Moon Festival treats and dress up like Vietnamese children would on this day, we will be giving thanks for the “gods” that have brought us together and given us much to celebrate about life.