HomeChinese AmericanChinese Americans celebrate Mid-Autumn Lantern Festival

Chinese Americans celebrate Mid-Autumn Lantern Festival

By Shirley L Ng

Each year, the Chinese celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is also known as the “Moon Festival.”

Bridgewater, NJ celebrated the annual event calling it the “Mid-Autumn Lantern Festival.” Li Ching Jung, president of The Center for Cultural and Creative Exchange organized the second annual celebration at the Bridgewater Commons Mall. The event included dance performances, demonstrations and a chorale group. Check out our slide show below by hitting the right arrow.

It is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. On the Gregorian calendar, the holiday is usually in September or early October. The festival is thought to be similar to the American holiday, Thanksgiving.

Shoppers were treated to quite a celebration with beautiful large red lanterns that marked the performance area in the center of the mall and a gold dragon on the upper level, which symbolizes authority, health and prosperity. The dragon is also the zodiac sign for the next Lunar New Year in 2024.

Jung explained that the event is called a “lantern festival,” instead of “Mid-Autumn Festival” or “Moon Festival,” because she felt there were many lantern festivals occurring at the same time two weeks after Lunar New Year when it is usually celebrated. Instead of having the lantern festival last winter, she chose to combine it with this year’s mid-Autumn festival instead.

“If you understand the culture, you would accept the people,” Jung said in an interview. She felt that the cultural event in her local mall would build acceptance in the community.

During the Mid-Autumn Festival, families traditionally join together for a meal to celebrate and present mooncakes to friends and families as gifts of well wishes.

How this festival began stems from a 3,000-year-old legend about Hou Yi.   There were 10 suns that scorched the earth and crops. The conditions were also incredibly very hot for the people to live in. Hou Yi, being an excellent archer, shot down nine of the ten suns with his bow and arrow to save the earth from the immense heat.  The Queen of Heaven rewarded Hou Yi for saving earth with an elixir of immortality.  He told his wife, Chang’e about the elixir, but there was only enough for one person and they both did not want to live apart. Chang’e kept the elixir safe when her husband was not home, but one day Hou Yi’s student tried to steal it from Chang’e. Instead of surrendering the elixir to the thief, Chang’e drank it and floated to the moon and became the Moon Goddess. Hou Yi became lonely because he loved his wife so much that he made offerings to the moon to find her.  The festival has become a holiday of giving thanks to a plentiful harvest and eating round desserts shaped like the moon filled with a salted egg yolk, which conveys completeness and a sweet life. 

Mooncakes come in all varieties and fillings, such as the traditional sweet lotus paste, lotus seed and red bean. Some include a salted egg yolk. There are now new varieties of fillings and flavors available, such as green tea, cranberry and many more. They are to be shared and eaten in cut pieces. Smaller mooncakes are now available for an individual and can be eaten in practically two to three bites. Mooncakes vary greatly in different regions of China.

What type of mooncake do you prefer and how do you celebrate the Mid-Autumn or Moon Festival with your family? Share your traditions with AsAmNews.

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