Mid-autumn festival highlights Vietnamese culture

Dancers perform at the annual Vietnamese Mid-autumn Festival.

The Vietnamese Community of Minnesota and the Bloomington Public Schools celebrated Tet Trung Thu (Mid-Autumn Festival) last Saturday at Kennedy High School in Bloomington. The two-part event offered hands-on activities for children during the afternoon and a family entertainment program.

The festival has its origins in the harvest festivals and dates back as far as recorded history in Asia. The festival date is determined by lunar calendar and comes each year on the 15th day of the 8th Lunar Month. This date fell on September 11, in 2006. Many Asian communities in the United States will often organize an event near the actual date that is most convenient for optimum community participation.

The event puts a focus on family togetherness after the busy harvest time. The full moon of the holiday is the center of legends and folklore that is steeped in the culture. The stories focus on youth and families, and teach lessons about working hard, growing up and respect for elders. There are parades of red lanterns and colorful decorations. There are dragon and lion dances. Just as with the Chinese Mid Autumn Festivals, the Tet Trung Thu is about good food and the moon cakes (Banh Trung Thu in Vietnam).

For expatriate communities, this festival more than any other is the best way to teach children the history and culture of Vietnam – because the festival is about children.

Phuoc Thi Minh Tran works to bridge cultures and introduce the culture of Vietnam to the mainstream community. This is often part of her work as the first Vietnamese American librarian in Minnesota at Augsburg Park Library. She is also the backbone of children’s activities at the Vietnamese events.

“It was a terrific and fun program,” said Tran. “There were so many fun activities to enjoy and to learn - but so little time.”

Children and their families, educators learned paper folding art and created animals and various holiday related shapes. The children were encouraged to learn so that they could participate in the art contest planned for the 2007 Tet Lunar New Year event.

Children used their imagination to create a moon festival storybook with themes on Chu Cuoi, Tho Ngoc, Ca hoa rong and other scripts based on folklore and the meaning of tet Trung Thu.

Other activities included decorating cowboy and cowgirl with colorful boots and cowboy hats and other items. The made a lotus lantern, a wreath lantern and an origami lotus lantern.

For the younger children there was face painting and making moon cakes and other animals and shapes out of play dough. There were also beanbag contest.

“For sure next year, we'll extend the time and have more creative and educational hands-on activities, and maybe make rabbit and star lanterns,” she added. “I was so happy to see all generations sitting all together around the table and helping each other to fold the lotus flower and the wreath lanterns and other hands-on activities. A great heartfelt bond between parents and children.”

The evening performances included lion dances and other entertainment from the Hung Vuong Association of Minnesota and Hoang Anh Dance Troupe, VietNhac youth and many children. They distributed lanterns (Long Den) and at moon cakes.

“The Vietnamese Community of Minnesota and the Bloomington Public Schools gratefully recognize the support and collaboration of various community and media organizations, members of Hung Vuong Association of Minnesota, VietBlood, Viet Nhac, Hoang-Anh Dance Troupe and dedicated volunteers,” said Phuong Dao, president, Vietnamese Community of Minnesota. “They made the event meaningful & a success.”

The Vietnamese Community of Minnesota is a nonprofit organization that was established in 1981. The volunteer board and staff that work on cultural arts, networking and outreach, education and social justice advocacy. They put together the largest Vietnamese community events in the region.