Most festivals in northern Vietnam take place the first four lunar months. Events are few after that until the eighth lunar month, our September, when the calendar is full again. The 8th lunar month is associated with the 13th century national hero Trần Hưng Đạo, who led Vietnamese forces in defeating three Mongol invasions. Kiép Bạc, his home village in Chí LInh district, Hải Dương province, holds a six-day festival in his honor from the 15th to the 20th. His cult is associated with that of the Holy Mothers and festivals in several Red River Delta villages this month feature dancers impersonating his spirit.
Chị Linh district, Côn Sơn village, is also the home of Nguyễn Trãi, the 15th century strategist who wrote the manual for his ally Lê Lợi on how to expel the Chinese occupiers. The festival in his honor occurs at the same time as the one for Trần Hưng Đạo in Kiếp Bạc.
Besides those honoring national heroes, the September calendar also includes one honoring animal heroes, so to speak, with the buffalo fights staged at Đồ Sơn, a beach resort near Hải Phong, this year held on the 10th. Pairs of buffaloes duel in the stadium until one of them emerges as champion. The owner gets a cash reward, then garlands the animal and parades it around the city. Afterwards all the buffaloes, including the winner, are slaughtered to provide the meat for everybody’s buffalo feast that evening.
The 15th is also Tết Trung Thu, the Mid-Autumn Festival. Popularly known as Children’s Tết, it is the time when parents indulge their children with gifts of fruits, sweet cakes, sticky rice buns and toys, as well as lanterns to run through the streets with at night. As a family event, it is one of the happiest days of the year.