Gatherers at the Tet-Trung-Thu festival packed into the Thomas Jefferson Community Center Sunday, Sept. 30, to continue a Vietnamese tradition that celebrates children.
Tet-Trung-Thu, or Mid-Autumn Festival, is an annual celebration that has been in Southeast Asian culture for thousands of years.
Parents hoisted their children on their shoulders and stretched arms out to take pictures. A traditional dragon dance--with a two-manned dragon costume—wound around the stage to the sound of beating drums.
Websites tell many different stories about the origin of Tet-Trun-Thu, but they all agree that this is a festival for children. Many say that it is festival after the fall harvest so that parents could make up lost time with their children. Although today most families don't have farms, modern lives are so busy that quality time with children can be scarce.
The gymnasium, which holds several basketball courts, was packed. The stage and its chairs filled at least one court. At the center court was a small makeshift playground surrounded with chairs occupied by observing parents.
"This is his first year," said Bonnie Gardener who brought her 6-year-old adopted son, Owen, to the festival. Gardener said she's been to other events in the metropolitan area and was glad this festival had a dragon dance, because Owen was a big fan of them.
Although she herself isn't Vietnamese, she explained how she wanted Owen, who was born in Vietnam, to know about his culture.
"We were in Vietnam for three weeks. The people were so friendly," Gardener said, adding that the residents would come out to say hello to Owen.
The gymnasium's walls were lined with vendors manned by boy and girl scout troops, their parents, and senior scout leaders. Some of the booths were run by independent families raising money for philanthropic causes.
They sold a variety of homemade sweets and a sampling of Vietnamese foods in addition to children's toys.
Kevin Nguyen, a boy scout of the group Gia Dinh and a sophomore in high school, said there was a lot more people this year.
"You get to bring people in, that is cool," he said.
As the crowd moved from one table to the next, a Vietnamese woman spoke through a microphone on stage in a jubilant tone, pausing only for the on-stage performances.
Dancers varied their dress with long silks, paddy hats, and other stage props. About a dozen boy and girl scout groups, kids ranging in age from Kindergarten to high school, took to the stage for the second half of the festival. There was also a group of violinists.
Kelly Nguyen, Kevin's sister, performed a dance in a group of brightly attired girls with hand fans.
"We practiced about three to four weeks. It was fun," Nguyen said after her performance. "I've been doing it since I was five."
Trien Than, a girl scout leader, said, "This cultural event brings the most scouts in the area together.”
The Eden Center at Seven Corners in Falls Church will hold a Tet-Trung-Thu festival on Oct. 6.