Vietnamese tradition comes to Dot Park

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Sep. 3, 2008

The 14th of September, which happens to be the 15th day of the eighth lunar month in the calendar used in Vietnam, is the day of Têt Trung Thu, a traditional child-centric harvest festival. For the first time - on Sept. 1 - that holiday which involves colorful lanterns, singing and moon cakes, will be celebrated publicly in Dorchester Park.

The holiday is said to derive from times when parents spent so much time harvesting their crops that children were left to play by themselves. The lantern festival symbolizes the parents returning from harvest and showing love for the young ones.

Scouts from the Massachusetts Vietnamese Scouts Association, with support from several other Dot-based Vietnamese organizations, have arranged for lanterns for over one hundred children as well as loudspeakers that will play traditional songs that many children in Vietnam know by heart. They hope to draw 300 people to the festival.

"The kids here I think, don't a lot of the songs," said organizer To Quyen Bui of MVSA. "I'm hoping by playing it over and over again they will remember it for future festivals."

Bui, a scout leader, came to the United States when she was 13, and remembers participating in the lantern festival when she was still in Vietnam.

"It's a time for them to spend time with the family," she said. "The family makes their kids a lantern and the kids go in the streets to display their lantern."

In Vietnam, the lanterns are traditionally made using bamboo strips and paper, but here in Dorchester the scouts are constructing them out of locally available materials, like BBQ skewers, coat hangers and colored cellophane. Their handiwork will be for sale at the festival and the proceeds will go to the MVSA.

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