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Mid-Autumn Festival

by becca on October 10, 2009

This is what traveling is about. One minute you’re walking down the street, the next minute you’re following a parade of children dancing to an orchestra of pots and pans.

The energy in the air was palpable and it didn’t take us long to follow the drumming and find the dancing. In busier areas, traffic was stopped with loads of people on motorbikes just standing there watching, smiling and laughing.

For this celebration, kids travel in packs through the street, with a “band” (most times on wheels), a dragon (or 4), a Lucky Buddha, and plenty of others along for the ride. The dragons have big colorful heads and bodies made of 2 or 3 kids who are quite coordinated and make the dragon come to life. The Happy (or Lucky) Buddha wears a mask with a big happy pink face. From what we saw, kids are running the show, no adults necessary – just children having a great time making music in the street and entertaining the crowds.

It’s good luck for the next year when the dragon dances in your home or shop. So when the parade approaches, the dragon dances in a circle in front of the shop – sort of like asking permission to go in. Then the drag0n “goes to sleep” by kneeling on the floor. Happy Buddha enters, bringing good luck with him. The dragon then wakes up and dances all through the shop. Often times shopkeepers will give the children a little bit of money.

It gets really interesting, when the dragon climbs up to the second floor of a building (or sometimes they just do it in the middle of the street) by using a tall bamboo pole with little steps sticking out the sides. The group holds the bottom while the dragon climbs up. When he gets to the top, he breathes fire (with aerosol and a lighter).

One of the highlights for me in Vietnam so far was when the procession made its way to our dinner table. They did the dance for us and Happy Buddha posed for a photo with Nate. When they asked for money, I took a $2 bill (which is considered very lucky in Vietnam) and gave it to the dragon through his mouth. When the kids realized what we had given them they were elated! I mean, after a brief look of absolute disbelief, they were literally jumping for joy. The Buddha ran half way down the block back to us to bestow even more luck upon us by fanning his leaf from his mouth towards us repeatedly.

Everyone we spoke to called this celebration the Children’s Festival or Children’s New Year. When we looked it up, wikipedia calls it the The Mid-Autumn festival. Wikipedia also tells us that what I refer to as a dragon is actually a lion – but we were told they were dragons, so that’s what I’m sticking with. What ever the proper terminology, we were lucky to have this experience.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Aimee 10.27.09 at 12:38 am

Wow, you guys! I just started reading backwards yesterday. Your trip looks like such a great time – I’m very envious. Stop by and say hi in SF sometime!

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