Mid-Autumn Festival brings local Chinese community together

(From left to right) Nancey Fang (grade 12), Kerri Wong (grade 10), and Linda Fang greet and register guests.

(From left to right) Nancey Fang (grade 12), Kerri Wong (grade 10), and Linda Fang greet and register guests.

Selina Pi, Editor

Happy Moon Day!

Mooncakes in a decorated tin box

Lei Jin, the 2014 president of the Chinese Association of Greater Charleston, thanks guests before food is served.

Lei Jin, the 2014 president of the Chinese Association of Greater Charleston, thanks guests before food is served.

Today, September 8, 2014, is the Chinese Moon Festival. Also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival, it occurs annually in the fall on a full moon. In celebration, on Saturday the 6th of September, Charlestonians gathered at the Big Oak shelter at Mount Pleasant’s Palmetto Island County Park. The weather was somewhat overcast and damp, and at one point, partygoers scrambled for shelter under kayaks, trees, and pavilions when it began to pour rain.

Even though the moon was hiding behind the clouds that day, the celebration was enjoyable. Colorful balloons represented the round lanterns traditionally displayed during the Mid-Autumn festival. Old friends reunited and ate traditional Chinese cuisine together under the pavilion. Cooks finished preparing some delicious-smelling barbeque chicken just before the downpour. Dancers in flowered green, orange and black costumes performed and contributed to a festive atmosphere. At the end of the celebration, volunteers passed out beautiful mooncakes enclosed in decorated tin boxes to each family.

A Chinese community feast

A Chinese community feast

Mooncakes are a staple in traditional Chinese cuisine and in the Mid-Autumn festival. Made by skilled bakers, these rounded pastries reflect the full moon and represent unity. The filling consists of a sweet lotus bean or red bean paste with a dense, smooth texture. Some varieties of mooncake include an egg yolk in the center to further symbolize the moon. The external shell consists of glazed flour and is often stamped with the name of the bakery that produced the pastry.

Mooncakes have designs imprinted on their surfaces. The inside is smooth and dense.

Mooncakes have designs imprinted on their surfaces. The inside is smooth and dense.

Leotie Hakkila (grade 12) gazes up at the balloons brightening the celebration.

One Chinese legend that explains this celebration’s focus on the moon tells the story of an archer and his wife. One day, the Prince of Heaven’s ten sons decided to destroy the earth by turning into ten suns. Fortunately, the archer shot down nine of the suns, leaving one to remain and keep the earth warm. In return for his services, he received a pill that would give him immortality. A jealous studentĀ found out, broke into his home, and demanded his wife for the pill when the archer was way. The wife swallowed the pill to keep the archer’s evil-hearted pupil from obtaining it, and she rose to the heavens, separated from her husband forever. However, she chose the moon for her home so that she and her husband could still see each other despite their distance.

In other variants of the legend, the wife saves her citizens from her tyrannical husband, or she accidentally consumes the pill, but in all cases, the Chinese celebrate the wife’s devotion to either her husband or her country.

In Chinese culture, there are two major annual celebrations: the New Year Festival in the spring to celebrate the sun and the new planting season, as well as the Mid-Autumn Festival in the fall to celebrate the moon and the harvest. Values of kinship and family are manifest in these celebrations of the seasons and celestial bodies.

The festival activities foster a spirit of community.

The festival activities foster a spirit of community.

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