Each year in South East Asia, the Moon Festival is celebrated around early September. This festival is also referred to as the Mid-Autumn Festival (northern hemisphere), or in Vietnam as the Trung Thu Festival. The Vietnamese refer to it as the Children’s Festival where the moon legend is remembered. Children will make or buy lanterns to light the way for Cuội to find his way back from the moon.
The date is almost never the same, as it is determined by the equinox – the day of the year when daylight and darkness are equal in length, this being the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. Being in Australia, it is also celebrated across Asian communities in capital cities across the different states. In NSW, the Moon Festival is celebrated in Cabramatta. You can read more on the Festival Background in more detail on the councils’ website. Details of the Festival can also be found on the council website under Cabramatta Moon Festival.
This year after visiting my Grandmother who is nearby, we made a spontaneous decision to drop by the festival to see the celebrations and festivities. We arrived just after 6pm and arrived to a sea of people – the celebrations had been going on all day and were to conclude with a fireworks display that evening. The festival kicked off with a lion dance at 10.30am, with various activities, entertainment and performances throughout the day. We realised that we had never taken my daughter to the festival so it was an adventure for us all to discover what was going to unfold. It had been many years since I remember being at the moon festival and eagerly anticipated the adventure.
There were rides and amusement games, car displays, food stalls, lanterns, moon cakes, food and plenty of festival paraphernalia being sold. There were also various performances on centre stage by music artists eg Timomatic (Tim Omaji who rose to fame as a contestant on So You Think You Can Dance in 2009 and placed seventh in the competition and has also appeared on Australia’s Got Talent). There were also live cooking demonstrations, Kung Fu demonstrations, parkour performances by Dauntless Movement Crew which my talented nephew is a part of. There was also a children’s lantern parade, eating competitions and many other varied performances and entertainment throughout the day and evening.
It was a buzz of movement, culture, food and celebration! I was eager to buy some moon cakes which are a specialty at this time of year and made especially for this festival. I am especially fond of the cakes made with lotus paste but without egg yolk. The egg yolk in the cakes symbolises the moon – my mum though, prefers the one with an egg yolk. You can also have moon cakes that have 2 egg yolks inside. The filling can vary from red bean, taro or lotus paste and is a dense sweet filling encased in pastry.
We wondered the streets and perused the various stalls, tried some beef and pork jerky which was lovely – there were three flavours: honey pork, honey beef and chilli pork. All in all, it was a lovely rediscovery of the moon festival and we enjoyed seeing the celebration of cultures – mainly Chinese and Vietnamese but it was a melting pot of many other cultures coming together to enjoy the festivities. We were also blessed with wonderful weather – it was a cool, clear spring night which was perfect for ambling among the streets taking in all the sights, sounds and smells. We Laughed, Loved and Lived, enjoying a celebration that dates back many years and bringing back childhood memories. It was lovely to be able to share the experience with our daughter and we also managed to bump into her older brother as we perused the stalls – he was with his girlfriend looking for somewhere to eat! We were amazed that we did bump into them considering the sea of people gathered at the festival!
If you’re ever in South East Asia during the time of the moon festival, you might find it something to you may like to discover. In the Vietnamese culture, it is considered the second-most important holiday tradition after Tết (New Year). Or you may discover that it is celebrated in the country or city that you currently reside, which enables you to attend the festival celebrations to have a taste and feel before you embark on your own adventures to South East Asia to take in the Moon Festival there. I hope you enjoyed this adventure as much as we did and hope that it inspires you to discover the many adventures waiting for you to enjoy!