Vietnamese people celebrate Mid-Autumn as a children’s festival characterized by the sound of drums and the twinkle of star-shaped lanterns (đèn ông sao) under the clear and vast tropical sky of bright clear moonlight and cool wind. Meanwhile, in China, Mid-Autumn Festival is also called Family Reunion Festival (Tuanyanjie). No matter how far they are from home, Chinese return to their native place to reunite with their families and to honour their homeland. Anyone for from family at Mid-Autumn Festival longs for a letter from home.
Autumn in the Yellow River Basin, the cradle of Chinese culture, is the time when yellow leaves fall to the ground and the crystal dew turns translucent. At night, the temperature often drops below zero. One finds Mid-Autumn’s bright, shining moon only south of the Yangzi River.
Many researchers believe that Chinese people, influenced by the Bai Yue (Bách Việt) peoples, began to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 – 1279). According to the lunar calendar, autumn lasts from the seventh to ninth lunar months. The eighth full moon (Rằm Tháng Tám) occurs in the middle of autumn. At the time, in the north of China there are “thousands of miles (li) of solid ice, hundreds of thousands of li of flying snow.” (Mao Zedong)
Although Chinese Culture greatly influenced Vietnamese Traditions, Chinese people do not celebrate Mid-Autumn as a children’s festival. Trere are no drums or star-shaped lanterns. What’s more, there is no clear and vast tropical sky with bright clear moonlight and cool wind.
A Vietnamese poet, describes autumn in Việt Nam:
This morning the city entered autumn
Didn’t the trees put on their flowery blouses yesterday evening?
The wind roams, knocking on every door
Sunlight spreads its golden silk everywhere.
Whereas autumn leaves in temperate countries turn yellow and fall, trees in Viet Nam remain luxuriantly green. Some trees, such as the milk flower (hoa sữa) on Hà Nội’s Nguyễn Du Street, bloom and become the subject of autumn poetry and music. The autumn wind, called gió heo may, is unlike the humid summer wind (which blows from the south) or the arid winter wind (which blows from the north); rather, it blows from the Eastern Sea toward the Tản and Trường Sơn Mountain Ranges in the west and is soft, cool, and a little bit dry. In fact, the breeze is so gentle it barely rustles the reeds as described in a popular verse. Autumn sunshine is the light yellow of undyed silk. The air is slightly cool and dry, adding a pink colour to people’s cheeks.