On September 16, Chinese Consortium celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival inside Reamer Campus Center.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is a harvest festival celebrated by ethnic Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese people. The festival is held on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. The full moon at night corresponds to the Gregorian Calendar’s full moon between late September and early October.
The festival was listed as a cultural heritage in 2006 and a public holiday in 2008 by mainland China. It is also a public holiday in Taiwan, and in Hong Kong. In Korea, it is a major harvest festival and a three-day holiday. Similarly, in the Vietnamese culture, it is considered the second-most important holiday tradition.
Students and several faculty members took part in the celebration. After the event, Samantha Kruzshak ’19 noted, “I always wanted to find out more about the South East Asian traditions and culture, and I believe the Chinese Consortium did a wonderful job in making people aware of this particular festival and I believe the tasteful mooncakes certainly added more to the celebration.”
The Chinese have celebrated the harvest during the autumn full moon since the Shang Dynasty. The celebration as a festival only started to gain popularity during the early Tang Dynasty. One legend explains that Emperor Xuanzong of Tang started to hold formal celebrations in his palace after having explored the Moon-Palace.
Moreover, an important part of the festival celebration is moon worship. The ancient Chinese believed in rejuvenation being associated with the moon and water, and connected this concept to the menstruation of women, calling it “monthly water.”
The Zhuang people, for example, have an ancient fable saying the sun and moon are a couple and the stars are their children, and when the moon is pregnant, it becomes round, and then becomes crescent after giving birth to a child. These beliefs made it popular among women to worship and give offerings to the moon on this evening. In some areas of China, there are still customs in which “men worship the moon and the women offer sacrifices to the kitchen gods.”
A notable part of celebrating the holiday is the carrying of brightly lit lanterns, lighting lanterns on towers, or floating sky lanterns. It is difficult to discern the original purpose of lanterns in connection to the festival, but it is certain that lanterns were not used in conjunction with moon-worship prior to the Tang Dynasty.
Making and sharing mooncakes is one of the hallmark traditions of the Mid-Autumn Festival as well. In Chinese culture, a round shape symbolizes completeness and reunion.
Thus, the sharing and eating of round mooncakes among family members during the week of the festival signify the completeness and unity of families. In some areas of China, there is a tradition of making mooncakes during the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival.
The senior member of the household would cut the mooncakes into pieces and distribute them to each family member, signifying family reunion.
In modern times, however, making mooncakes at home has given way to the more popular custom of giving mooncakes to family members, although the meaning of maintaining familial unity remains.
Kim Bolduc ‘17, a participant in the celebration, said, “It was definitely an enjoyable time and a pleasurable sight to see people learn about different traditions and culture.”