The mid-autumn festival, which is believed to originate in China and celebrated by many Asian countries, including Vietnam, falls on the 15th day of the eighth month on the lunar calendar. The festival falls on September 27 this year.
Despite the different theories on its origin, the mid-autumn festival and its indispensable treat – moon cakes – have been well loved and practiced for several hundred years.
The fest is considered a special occasion for family reunions, and the original round shape of the moon cakes is also indicative of the meaning.
During the celebrations, family members habitually get together, make offerings to their ancestors and delightedly enjoy moon cakes over fragrant tea while admiring the full moon.
Meanwhile, kids typically hang around with their well-lit lanterns, chanting traditional moon-welcoming songs, and playing traditional games.
But these traditions have arguably become thing of the past, at least in Vietnamese big cities, as moon cakes are now mostly exchanged between adults as gifts, and their prices keep unreasonably skyrocketing festival after festival.
When studying Vietnamese in Hochiminh City, you will notice that there is also a paradox in Vietnam, as those who buy moon cakes will not eat them, and those who eat the delicacy do not have to buy them.
Thirty-six out of 40 people from all walks of life recently surveyed byTuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper said that they buy moon cakes for a sole purpose: to give away as presents. This represents a huge proportion of 90 percent.
While it is a month away from the festival, the moon cake market has already started since early August, with the cakes now available at stores, supermarkets and street booths.
Cake makers always introduce new fillings, packaging and designs for their products every year, and much higher prices as well.
A box of four moon cakes can cost between VND100,000 to more than VND2 million (US$4.5-$90), depending on the design, fillings, and reputation of the makers.
As the cakes will be used as gifts, people cannot wait until their prices are cut to buy.
“It would be embarrassing doing so,” Nguyen Thu Hang, a 26-year-old pharmaceutical representative in Ho Chi Minh City, said.
“So I have to buy when their prices are still high.”
Stories about a box of moon cake will be given as gift from this person to the other and end up being presented to the very person who bought it in the first place are not merely jokes in Vietnam, as such embarrassing situations do occur in reality.
Asked what to do with the moon cake gifts, 14 of the respondents in the Tuoi Tre survey said they will immediately give them as presents to others. Chances are they will receive the same box of moon cakes as gifts from somebody.
Twenty-five said they will eat those cakes, but will give away those they cannot eat up.
Only one respondent said she will never gift what she is gifted.
“It would be awkward if the recipients know the story,” she said.
The Tuoi Tre survey also found that 30 out of 40 people acknowledge that moon cakes are unreasonably expensive.
But the moon cake market keeps growing on an annual basis and whether the Mid-Autumn Festival could be returned to local children remains a mystery.
Source: Tuoitre News