BY SHAWN JEFFORDS ,TORONTO SUN
FIRST POSTED: SATURDAY, UPDATED: SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2012 08:05 PM EDT
Oanh Nguyen demonstrates how to make a moon cake, a traditional Vietnamese dessert, during the Vietnamese Lantern Festival at the Harbourfront Centre Saturday. The festival is free and continues Sunday. (SHAWN JEFFORDS/Toronto Sun).
TORONTO – At first it was just a pile of small sticks, wire and tissue paper.
But as Patricia Thompson and her five-year-old daughter Alex work at it on the lawn at the Harbourfront Centre, a brightly-coloured Vietnamese Lantern begins to take shape.
“We’ve been planning all summer long to come,” Patricia said of the Vietnamese Lantern Festival on this weekend. “The lanterns are beautiful when they’re all lit up.”
The festival marks the traditional mid-Autumn harvest celebrated across Asia.
Thompson travelled to Thailand a number of years ago where she went to a lantern festival and thought this would be the perfect chance to give Alex that chance close to home.
“I remember it was a very sensory experience,” she said.
There was plenty to entertain, indulge and delight all of the senses at the third annual festival co-sponsored by the centre and the Vietnamese Women’s Association of Toronto.
“We really hope that people bring their children down and celebrate with us,” said association president Emillie Nguyen of the free event that runs all weekend.
The mid-Autumn harvest is typically a time of great celebration after a lot of work in Vietnam. Parents spend time with their children and enjoy the newly harvested food.
“People watch the moon all night while the children play with their new lanterns,” she said.
Nguyen said while the lanterns are a big draw, so are many of the family-friendly activities and performances at the events mainstage. Vietnamese tea and a moon cake tastings are also a major part of the event.
Organizers want to give visitors a taste of their culture but also reach out to their own Vietnamese community.
“This is also about community development and education,” she said. “It would be excellent to have several of these celebrations throughout the summer.”