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|Papermasks is a popular traditional toys among Vietnamese children during the Mid-Autumn Festival. (Photo: VNA)|
Amid the abundance of colourful modern toys displayed in Hanoi’s Old Quarter during the Mid-Autumn Festival, traditional offerings till have their place in the hearts of Vietnamese children.
Some of the most popular traditional toys are paper masks, which have also found favour among international and domestic tourists.
Artisan couple Nguyen Van Hoa and Dang Huong Lan has made paper masks for more than 40 years. Their stall is modestly situated among other stalls selling modern toys on Hang Luoc street. While Lan is engrossed in arranging the masks and welcoming buyers, her husband is busy decorating their stall.
A month before Mid-Autumn festival, they wake up early every day to draw the masks, prepare for delivery and then bring their products to Hang Luoc street to sell, Lan said
When the festival is approaching, Hoa is often invited to attend many to introduce the craft of making paper masks to children.
According to the artisan, they can make 30 different faces for the masks. Besides traditional faces like Ong Dia (a happy Buddha who is a lion master), buffaloes, horses or tigers, they have also modernised their products by creating masks of contemporary figures like Spiderman and Superman, which sell like hotcakes during Mid-Autumn Festival.
“The affection for the traditional paper masks of many people makes us feel our work is beneficial to society and get more motivated to pursue the craft until now,” Lan said.
Walking past Hang Luoc street, one might also spot a stall selling stuffed swan toys.
Made from cotton, it used to be every Vietnamese girl’s dream toy for Mid-Autumn Festival.
There is only one family in Hanoi still making stuffed swan toys for sale, Vu Thi Thanh Tam's family on Hang Luoc street.
The toy includes a basket with two small spotless white stuffed swan with cute red beaks, nestling peacefully among the colourful flowers.
Tam said she did not know when the craft was born, but remembers that many stuffed animal toys like chickens, birds or swans that used to be sold abundantly on Hang Gai street were hugely popular in the past. She learned the craft to earn extra income for her family at the time.
“The cotton swan toys used to sell well and the families making the toys could not even meet demand. However, when more and more modern toys became available, children became less interested in traditional toys, including stuffed swan toys. Many families have quit the craft, so now there is only my family taking it over,” the 90-year-old artisan said.
Her family used to make swan toys for extra income, and now even when their living conditions have improved, Tam still makes the toys as she has for 70 years.
“Whenever the Mid-Autumn Festival is approaching, my family hesitates whether to make it or not, but we still make it,” she said.
According to Quach Thi Bac, Tam’s daughter-in-law, the swan toys don't sell as well as they used to in the past. Their customers are mainly organisations or local authorities in wards and districts across Hanoi who buy them to celebrate the festival for the children in the areas.
Occasionally, foreign visitors also come to their house to buy baskets of cotton swans as souvenirs to bring back home.
In the past two years, they have been invited by the Old Quarter Management Board to attend the Mid-Autumn Festival to introduce this traditional craft to Vietnamese kids and tourists.
“I don’t know if the traditional craft will still survive after I pass away. It will be a pity if younger generations don't know about the existence of traditional toys like stuffed swans,” Bac said.