Vietnamese children look forward to Tet Trung Thu, or the Mid-Autumn Festival, as they are not only treated to sweets and cakes, but also given presents. While the practice is still common, the choices of presents have changed significantly over the years.
Some items were kids’ favorites decades ago but can still be found in shops on Hang Ma Street in Hanoi’s famous old quarter, especially with the festival coming soon (September 27).
The celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival is never complete without lanterns. In the past, before they became modern with the addition of LED lights and musical devices, these rotating lamps were like magic for kids. Known as den keo quan in Vietnam, the lamps look like little shadow theaters when lit up.
They cost VND50,000-100,000 (US$2.2-4.4).
A girl holds a star-shaped lantern
At VND10,000-20,000 (43-87 cents), star-shaped lanterns may be too outdated for many people, but they can be still found at shops on Hang Ma and a couple of nearby streets.
Kids crowd a lion dancer
With lion dances being an indispensable part of the celebrations, lion heads made from paper and bamboo is always a favorite among kids, whether in the past or now. Children would put the lion heads on and play around with other kids in their neighborhood, an adorable sight that can be seen even days after the festival.
A lion head costs VND1.5-3 million ($66-131).
Frog drums on display at a shop
When it comes to lion dances, drums play an important part in their performance. Designed for kids, these drums are small with heads made from frog skin, thus its Vietnamese name trong ech or frog drum.
A drum costs VND30,000-50,000 ($1.3-2.1).
A set of Trung Thu offerings
On the festival day, people make offerings to either their ancestors or deities and pray for health and success. Besides fruits and com, a green rice dessert popular in the north in autumn, there are paper toys that are given to kids after the offering ritual.
Typically, they are paper dolls that cost VND50,000-150,000. Their meaning varies in accordance with their size and position. The lower-placed pair of figurines in the photo are servants, while those higher above are known as tien si giay, or paper doctors, and often given to children as a mark of good wish for their studies.
Small lion heads are another favorite offering and cost VND30,000-50,000 each.
Two children play with an iron boat
In the past this little iron boat was a luxury toy for kids during the Mid-Autumn Festival.
With the design almost unchanged over years, the boat now costs VND150,000-300,000. It can sail in water when a small kerosene lamp inside its hull is lit up.
A girl holds a swan basket
Currently selling at VND50,000, this swan basket was once a popular toy for young girls. The white swans are made of paper, sponge and cotton.
Two girls pose with paper masks
These masks, made from layers of paper, are one of the few traditional toys that have managed to retain their popularity until now.
At VND25,000-30,000 each, the masks depict popular Vietnamese characters like ong Dia, a happy-go-lucky Vietnamese Earth Deity, and the popular smiling character in water puppetry known as chu Teu.
Original Vietnamese story can be found here on VnExpress.