Moon Festival centers on families

Heather L. Mueller

The Vietnamese Student Association is shedding some light on the folklore of the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival.

The group is holding a lantern painting event today at Coffman Union in celebration of the festival.

The Moon Festival, or “Tet Trung Thu” in Vietnamese, falls on the 15th day of the eighth-month, according to the lunar calendar. This year the festival was Oct. 6.

During the festival, families center their activities on children. They gather together to share folk tales, participate in lantern parades, make crafts and masks, dance and relax under the full moon.

The roundness of the full moon, a symbol of prosperity, family unity and harmony, is the theme of the celebration, said Phuoc Thi-Minh Tran, a librarian at the University and Augsburg Park Library.

WHERE TO GO

Vietnamese Moon Festival
What: Paint your own lantern to support the Vietnamese Student Association.
When: Noon to 4 p.m. today
Where: Coffman Front Plaza
For More Information, Go To:
www.tc.umn.edu/~vsa/

Hanna Nguyen, a University alumna and adviser for the association, said this year’s lantern painting event will include more information about the festival’s folklore.

Lit candles are placed inside the lanterns and spun to represent the earth circling the sun. The moon festival originated in Southeast Asia and dates back 15,000 to 20,000 years.

The festival is similar to Halloween, Nguyen said. As a young child in Vietnam, Nguyen, her siblings and friends traveled door to door in her neighborhood to show off their lanterns, sing songs and eat mooncakes, traditional round-shaped pastries.

“You show off your lantern instead of asking for candy and wearing a costume,” she said.

Nguyen said the association’s lantern painting event is a good opportunity for students to have hands-on involvement and learn about the culture.

This year the association will have round and heart-shaped lanterns for students to paint.

“You paint your heart’s desire,” she said. “Or a lot of people write poems or riddles and leave them hanging on trees for their lovers.”

Nguyen said young children often paint stars or animals on their lanterns.

The first lantern painting event, held last year, sparked a lot of curiosity and interest in the student community, causing a nearly 15 percent increase in participation among students who didn’t speak Vietnamese, Nguyen said.

The association is trying to “branch out and broaden membership” by incorporating more English into their events, she said.

“One of our main goals in VSA is to share our culture,” Nguyen said. “These little events raise awareness.”

The day is a way to promote other larger events, such as the association’s New Year celebration in February, she said.

Thuy Nguyen-Tran, an association member, said in an e-mail that events like the moon festival draw hundreds of people.

“In Minnesota, the Vietnamese community has made great efforts to bring people together during this time of the year by holding various cultural events,” she said.

Nguyen-Tran said a large celebration at Kennedy High School in Bloomington included singing, traditional dancing, arts and crafts and mooncakes.

Phouc Thi-Minh Tran said every year children and adults get very excited for the festival.

“When I was young in Vietnam, we (had) a big lantern parade with different colors and different shapes and things,” Phouc Thi-Mihn Tran said.

Every year her family assembles an altar outside filled with mooncakes and round fruits including pomelos, pomegranates, peaches and grapes.

“The round shape of the mooncakes is because of the symbol of life, unity and family harmony,” she said.

Some fruits, such as pears, are not used because they symbolize separation or bad luck.

Events like the festival celebration at Kennedy and the University give people an opportunity to compare Vietnamese holiday traditions with their own, Phouc Thi-Mihn Tran said.