by Randy Hoang
Tet Trung Thu, otherwise known as Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, was celebrated by the gathering of the Vietnamese community of Mount Angel Seminary behind Annunciation under the moonlight sky of September 9, 2014.
The Mid-Autumn Moon Festival dates back as far as 15-20,000 years ago in Southeast Asia and is traditionally held on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. This is often within two weeks of the autumnal equinox or when the full moon appears between early September or October in accordance with the Gregorian calendar.
Because of its close connection to children, this celebration is often referred to as the Children's Festival. In ancient times, many Vietnamese believed that children, being innocent and pure, had the closest connection to the natural sacred world. Therefore, it was good to celebrate with children the success of the harvest year. In commemorating this hard work done in the fields, parents, family and friends took this opportunity to be with their loved ones to eat, drink tea and celebrate the year’s harvest under the full harvest moon.
The staples of this celebration include drinking tea, eating the signature moon cake, and watching children play with lanterns. A mooncake, which has its origin in China, is a round sweet pastry with fillings such as red bean paste, durian, egg or even a combination.
In the spirit of this tradition, the Vietnamese community of Mount Angel, which included both the seminary and monastic brothers and priests, gathered to drink tea and eat the moon cake and other pastries. Fr. Liem Nguyen, a monk of the Abbey and a seminary formation director, said “We come to remind each other of the festival back in our country and each other’s company.” Nostalgic, Fr. Liem reminisced on the past and said, “In the village (back in Vietnam) there’s no electricity; the moon was a light for the people to have the opportunity to go out and play at night.”
Anh Tran, president of the Vietnamese community and a first year theologian from the Archdiocese of Seattle, elaborated and expressed that the moon, like the Prophet Elijah’s encounter with God, is “a small a soft presence that is always there, but in order for us to notice it, we have to filter out the artificial.” This can be seen as an artificial light or, more abstractly, worldly distractions.
At the end of the day, although no lanterns were included, it was an opportunity for the Vietnamese community both old and new to gather in fellowship, tell stories and create lasting memories.