|Spinning earth: Nguyen Van Quyen teaches children and visitors how to make den keo quan at the Viet Nam Museum of Ethnology. — VNS Photo Minh Thu
HA NOI (VNS) — The mid-autumn festival is underway in Ha Noi's Old Quarter with numerous activities organised to serve people, especially children.
Yesterday, the festival kicked off at the Old Quarter's Information Centre, 50 Dao Duy Tu Street, with an exhibition of cardboard toys by painter Nguyen Phan Bach.
The exhibition displays photos and documents featuring traditional mid-autumn festivals in the Old Quarter in the past.
The centre also hosts puppetry performances by artists from Te Tieu Village on Friday and Saturday nights.
The festival's opening ceremony attracted many students in Hoan Kiem District, including 11-year-old Hoang Anh Tuan.
"Painter Bach instructed us to make cardboard toys, and he allows us to paint on them with our favourite colours," Tuan said. "How funny, as each one of us chooses a different colour to paint on Bach's cardboard horse. When we finish, it appears so colourful."
Tuan added that he loves to make traditional toys and join the lantern parade during the mid-autumn festival.
From now until Sunday, children can visit Kim Ngan Temple on Hang Bac Street and learn how to make traditional toys and masks.
Also known as the full moon festival, the mid-autumn festival falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month. This year, it falls on Sunday. In Viet Nam, this festival is primarily for children, who are the centre of activities.
While the main celebration is organised on the full moon day, many entertainment activities are held in the days leading up it. Children take glee in preparing their costumes, masks and lanterns for the parade, often spending weeks or even a month getting ready for the event.
Traditionally, during the night of the festival, children parade on the streets, singing with colourful lanterns shaped like butterflies, fish and stars in their hands. Another popular lantern includes den keo quan (a lantern which spins around with vivid, rotating paper-cut figures), symbolising the seasonal spinning of the earth around the sun.
Before or after the parade, parents prepare for their children a lavish tray of fruits and moon cakes called co Trung Thu, which they savour together while admiring the full moon.
The Viet Nam Museum of Ethnology has made a commitment in recent years to offer children traditional mid-autumn festival events. Many foreign, imported toys and games have been applied to the mid-autumn festival, which some consider to be a decline in traditional values and the festival's identity.
This year, the museum's festival theme is Can Tho Culture, according to An Thu Tra, the museum's officer.
"Together with traditional games and activities, each year, we want to introduce visitors and children to an identity of a location or an ethnic group that helps them improve their knowledge and experience new things," she said.
In addition to traditional activities, children will also have an opportunity to learn about the culture of the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho through games, dance and food.
Artist Nguyen Van Quyen from Thanh Oai District has come to the museum for the past nine years to teach children how to make den keo quan. It takes one day to finish one den keo quan. He sells each lantern for VND150,000 (US$7).
His house is 25km away from the museum, a long ride for him by motorbike. However, Quyen said he wants to inspire children to love traditional toys.
"The festival falls on Sunday, but the activities to celebrate it have been held at the museum one week before," Quyen said. "Every day, I receive many visitors, especially children. I'm so happy that they are eager to learn how to make the lantern."
The mid-autumn festival is also celebrated nationwide. More than 100 artists from Hoi An city make 3,000 colourful lanterns to decorate the main streets in Da Nang City.
The streets of HCM City will also be lit up from the lanterns. Luong Nhu Hoc Street is expected to draw many visitors and tourists with its splendid display of lanterns. — VNS