In mid-Autumn, many schools, community events and aged care centres mark the brightest night of the year by celebrating the Moon Lantern Festival, with many not realising it is a tradition that has been introduced by the local Vietnamese community.
The annual event is just one example of how helping migrants maintain a connection with their homeland also enriches Australia’s multicultural society, says Mai Nguyen, Secretary of Australian Vietnamese Arts (AVA).
‘The kids have a paper lantern with a little candle in the middle, so everyone’s got a little moon to themselves. They love it,’ Mai says.
AVA has been organising Children’s Moon Lantern Festivals and performing traditional Vietnamese music and dance at events, including Moomba, for the past ten years.
‘Our last show at the Victoria Night Market was huge. In our first ten seconds, everyone stopped eating, stopped moving and just sat there and watched,’ Mai says.
‘We always try to translate whatever we doing — that the song we are performing is about something, and we explain when we do this move it means that we are bringing the moon down to join us in the dance…and we found that creates more connection as well.’
‘When you dance, you forget whatever is going on in your life, you just go with the flow, with the music, until the music stops.’
This is the first year AVA has been involved in the Victorian Seniors Festival and Mai says their older dance group was excited to be asked to take part, even if initially daunted by this year’s online format.
‘They just just couldn't believe that at this age they can do it. It’s been brilliant. Amazing.’
Watch their 2020 Victorian Seniors Festival reimagined performance.