Born in a Western country, I get accustomed to Halloween and Christmas. I used to have no idea of the lunar calendar. Nor have I seen people celebrating the full moon. However, as I started a long journey around Asia, especially Southeast Asia, it opened up a wide range of opportunities to witness unique festivals in the Orient. Despite much less popular than the Lunar New Year, Vietnamese Mid-Autumn festival left a long-lasting impression on me because of the vibrancy of Hang Ma street.
As far as I know, Hang Ma is among one of the ancient thirty-six streets in the old Hanoi, a city with more than the 1000-year-old history. Long before the French colonization, citizens in Hang Ma streets had made papers and offerings to serve the cult of ancestor worship. That’s how it was called Hang Ma (Ma means paper offerings for the dead in Vietnamese).
My first impression of Hang Ma is the classical architecture style of Hanoi’s old town. It features narrow streets with small antique houses on both sides. Hanoian residing in these houses are so smart that they have cleverly combined living space with worship place and a small area for shops. These houses usually have a tile roof that carves out to the street. It works as a shelter to guard against the sun and the rain for the shop below.
Hang Ma street shows its ultimate beauty when the full moon of August (in Lunar Calendar) is coming. People from all over the capital flock to Hang Ma to buy stunning decorations, taking photos and having fun during Mid-Autumn Festival. The street becomes more bustling than ever. After dusk, it is lighted up with lanterns in all shapes and sizes. Children are excited about hundreds of toys while adults are fond of “check-in” the red street, recording beautiful moments in the soft and gentle breeze of the autumn.
On the prime day of the Mid-Autumn Festival, there are a lot of exciting performances on Hang Ma. I remember the first time I saw the unicorn dance; I was standing in awe when they were doing acrobatic feats. During that time of the year, I also had a chance to taste Moon Cake, a traditional dish of the Vietnamese for Mid-Autumn festival. So grateful that I can enjoy the Full Moon in the vigorous street of Hang Ma.
Tammy – our dear friend