By Jacklyn Tran – Ethnic Seattle

September 5, 2015

Tết Trung Thu, as it’s called in Vietnam, or Moon Festival in America, may be known by many names (Mid-Autumn Festival, Reunion Festival, etc.) but in Vietnamese culture the ancient holiday revolves around admiring the harvest moon and relishing the time spent with children and family.

Considered the second most important holiday by both the Chinese and Vietnamese (after Lunar New Year), it began centuries ago when worship would occur after the harvest season. Summer’s rice crops and other bounties of the land were celebrated as much as the time freed up to spend with loved ones due to the seasons closure. This year, the eight month of the lunar calendar in which the holiday is observed falls in September, when the moon that is honored is at its largest and brightest.

Today, the approach of this celebration can be signified by the appearance of mooncakes or bánh trung thu in Asian markets and bakeries. Mooncakes are a traditional dessert gifted to others during this holiday. Commonly round in shape, like the moon, they are made of a thin pastry skin that is stuffed with a variety of dense fillings such as sweet red bean, fruit paste, nuts and often a whole round egg yolk (again, representative of the moon). Cut into wedges to be eaten, sharing of this delicacy symbolizes wholeness and unity, just as the full moon is representative of harmony, completeness and prosperity.

As a child, I can still remember those bright nights of celebration at the Cổ Lâm Pagoda when the skies were lit by the brilliant red-tinged yellow of the moon. Joy would spread across our faces as we were each given a paper lantern of all different colors. In the center of each flattened disk, we would carefully drip a bit of hot wax on a small metal fragment before affixing a thin red candle in the wax before it cooled. The candle would be lit and carefully, the lantern stretched up around the little flame with accordion-like folds. Thin metal wire attached to the lantern top would be wrapped around a small stick for us all to parade around the grounds, moon gazing, sharing in laughter, enjoying the crisp night air; while parents beamed at us in our delight. From simple paper lanterns of different hues with tassels hanging below, to fancy cellophane lanterns in shapes of butterflies, fish or dragons, we all helped illuminate the night while celebrating our time together.

These days, the candlestick variety of lanterns is harder to come by, swapped out for a less fiery but equally vibrant version. The celebration, however, remains the same; every year bringing together families and communities to unite in glowing merriment under the radiant moonlight.

Events Guide:

Tết Trung Thu 2015

Location: Cổ Lâm Pagoda, 3503 S Graham Street, Seattle, WA 98118

Date and Time: TBA

Website: www.facebook.com/CoLamPagoda

Night Market and Autumn Moon Festival

September 12, 2015 / 6PM-Midnight

Location: Union Station Plaza and 5th Avenue S, Seattle’s Chinatown-International District

Website: www.NightMarketSeattle.com

Seattle’s Night Market and Autumn Moon Festival is back this year with 20 food trucks to feast on (providing international plates, each with a $5 themed menu or item available), 30 urban craft vendors to peruse, a beer garden, lots of music and performances, and complete with an all-ages dance party! Take to the streets with thousands of other festival explorers and party the night away with a diversity of food, shopping and entertainment!

Harvest Fair 2015

September 12, 2015 / 10AM to 4PM

Location: Meridian Park, behind the Good Shepherd Center, 4649 Sunnyside Ave. N. Seattle, WA 98103

Website: http://www.seattletilth.org/special_events/harvestfair2015

Seattle Tilth’s Harvest Fair is an annual community festival. Tasty food, live music, farm animals, workshops and kid’s crafts, DIY activities, cider pressing, cooking demonstrations and a parade with a marching band at noon (arrive by 11AM for children to participate) can be enjoyed by all-ages at this lively celebration of the harvest season! This free event is open to the public with voluntary donations accepted upon entrance.

Lantern Festival and Procession

September 12, 2015 / 5PM-10PM

Location: Dottie Harper Park, 421 SW 146th Street, Burien, WA 98166

Things to Bring: lanterns, costumes, shakers and bells, comfortable shoes

Website: www.BurienWA.gov/GLOW

 Lantern making, food vendors, face painting, jugglers and performers all culminate in a community lantern procession at dusk with samba music and a dance party at Dottie Harper Park in Burien! Come experience a magical evening where bells and shakers are encouraged as everyone makes music collectively during a walk in the park!

 Luminata Lantern Parade

September 19, 2015 / 7PM

Location: the Boat House on the South shores of Green Lake Park

Things to Bring: drums, instruments, blinky-lighted costumes, lighted umbrellas, stilts, fun costumes and comfortable walking shoes!

Website: http://fremontartscouncil.org/facevents/luminata/

Celebrate the equinox with a fire performance and Luminata parade of lights. The lantern parade celebrates the last days of summer and the shift into the beginning a darker, more indoor season. Meet at dusk around 7PM on the south end of Green Lake Park and bring lights and lanterns to symbolize the spirit of the community coming together to warm each other up in anticipation of the colder months approaching.