by Nguyen Thi Thanh Xuan
HANOI, Oct. 1 (Xinhua) -- Regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic, Vietnamese parents have tried their best to bring their children the fullest and happiest Mid-Autumn festival ever.
A young woman wearing a mask crept among the crowd step by step on Hang Ma Street, Vietnam's capital city of Hanoi on Thursday evening. In her arms, a toddler reached out to the colorful stuff hanging over his head.
Across the street in Hanoi's iconic Old Quarter, arrays of shops, stalls and walking hawkers were selling technicolor star-shaped lanterns and toys hand-crafted in paper and bamboo. From nearby corners, dynamic sounds of drums and live music beat the excitement up.
Dao Hong Chi, 31, was showing her two-year-old son the traditional toys for the Mid-Autumn Festival, or Tet Trung Thu in Vietnamese, which falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month every year.
NO LONGER LIKE BEFORE
The festival is celebrated on the eighth lunar month's full moon night, the most charming and picturesque night of the year, marking the end of the rice harvest in the Red River Delta around the Vietnamese capital originally.
Parents were busy during the harvest, so the holiday after that was a chance to spend time with their children. Over the years, it had been widely recognized as a festive event for kids across the Southeast Asian country.
A traditional Vietnamese Mid-Autumn Festival involves the customs of moon contemplating, procession of star and moon-shaped lanterns, lion dance, as well as holding parties with moon cakes and fruits amid the cool weather of autumn.
For every night in the past few weeks, people from the capital and nearby localities had been flocking to the Old Quarter of Hanoi, where ancient streets are filled with colorful decorations and goods, mostly toys for children, to enjoy the atmosphere of the vibrant and traditional event.
Like many parents in Vietnam, Chi hoped to make up for her son, who barely had chances to play out since the pandemic.
"I don't want my child to miss this occasion. It's a hard-won opportunity that we earned in Vietnam amid the complex developments of the disease globally," Chi told Xinhua.
As of Thursday, the Southeast Asian country has recorded no new cases of COVID-19 infection in the community for 29 straight days after the recent outbreaks reported in late July and August.
However, earlier lockdown regulations, social distancing orders, and schools' months-long break have deprived the opportunities of millions of children across the country to socialize, play and study.
Considering that the occasion itself comes only once per year, the Vietnamese mother decided that she needed to show her son the beauty of the festival.
While trying to maintain a safe distance from others, Chi took the baby to see lion dance performances, experience making mooncakes and some traditional toys such as paper lanterns, star lamps, and engage in dynamic games.
"Since other parents are also worried about infection risks in public places, I think they will strictly follow the directions to keep everyone, especially the children, safe," Chi said.
As part of the efforts to control and prevent the COVID-19 epidemic this year, many interactive activities of the Old Quarter's Mid-Autumn Festival program had been held in virtual format. With the support of technologies, artisans and craftsmen now could guide far-away families and babies to make traditional toys.
Some exhibition spaces were even moved online so that people outside Hanoi, or those afraid of the infection risk in the community, can enjoy from the comfort of their homes.
CHILDREN AT CENTER
Like millions of Vietnamese kids, seven-year-old girl Do Thuy Linh from Long Bien district had been looking forward to the Mid-Autumn Festival for months. Celebration activities at school including watching lion dances, art performances and joining traditional games are her favorite.
However, the COVID-19 this year has halted almost all large-scaled activities at Linh's school. To ensure safety for students, outdoor performances and games, which used to draw great participation of students were replaced by small parties inside classrooms.
Refusing to let the girl down, Do Duc Luong, Linh's father, decided to create a home-made playground for his daughter this year.
"I'll take this opportunity to truly engage with my girl," the 39-year-old father told Xinhua, adding that he totally understood the school's decision to scale down celebrations activities.
Luong believed that hosting a party in his area, though more strenuous than taking the child to public places, is much safer but can still be fun.
Together with some adults from his neighborhood in Thach Ban ward, Luong decorated their alley with hanging strips of flashing lights and colorful lanterns, designed simple games and prepared food, including the indispensable mooncakes for the kids.
A small stage was also set up at the entrance of the neighborhood and kids from the surrounding area were welcomed to join the so-called "Sparkling Night" event.
Under the light of the full moon, Linh and some 10 playmates, wearing animal face masks with adorable painting, were counting down to the start of the party.
They knew the moment was coming when drumbeats rang out from down the narrow alley, and the father -- in a round-happy faced mask that symbolized the moon -- appeared on the stage.
"COVID-19 has made our lives more difficult but we will not let it ruin our kids' festival," Luong said, his eyes fixed on the children playing around.
Bearing brightly colored lanterns, the kids formed raucous processions and toured the neighborhood singing songs. Their amazing night would only end when they are called to get back home for sleep.
"More crisis, even worse than the COVID-19, may come in the future, but as parents, we will always do our utmost to delight our kids with the fullest and brightest mid-autumn festival," said Luong while looking upon to the yellow moon.