Growing up I didn’t really celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival. The only reason I knew it was that time of year is because we would have mooncakes in the house. This year I wanted to celebrate with the girls. Even though they are 5 and 2, I wanted to expose them to the importance of the festival, build our own traditions, and have fun.
China’s Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, around the time of the autumn equinox (usually Sept 22). In Chinese culture, a full moon is a symbol of peace, prosperity and family reunion. This day is considered a harvest festival because farmers have just finished gathering their crops and bringing in fruits from the orchards. They are overjoyed with their bountiful harvest and ready to celebrate. On the Mid-Autumn Festival night, the moon is suppose to be at its brightest and fullest, which is why the festival is also known as the “Day of Reunion” and “Moon Festival”.
The weekend after the Mid-Autumn Festival day, my Grouchy Husband and I took the girls to the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) for the Mid-Autumn Moon Family Festival. My Baby isn’t in the picture above because she fell asleep during the stroller ride to the museum. You can almost see her sleeping in the reflection in the mirror. This actually worked out because she was a little young for the activities.
The calligrapher, Tianyi Shan, had an activity table where you could trace her brushstrokes. My Princess chose to trace the characters for mooncake. She got to take home her sheet of traced characters and a few messages done by Tianyi Shan for the Mid-Autumn Festival. Tianyi Shan was very patient and helpful with her instruction.
During the Sensory Mooncake Experience, we learned mooncakes are round to symbolize a full moon, usually have four egg yolks to symbolize the four phases of the moon, and helped establish the Ming Dynasty. According to the legend, before the Mid-Autumn Festival, a rebel disguised as a Taoist priest distributed mooncakes to allied rebels with a secret message inside of the plan to takeover power from the Mongals. On the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival, the rebels successfully attacked, overthrowing the Mongol government, and established the Ming Dynasty.
At the end of the session, we were able to taste mooncakes. The first mooncakes that we tasted had green tea and lotus seed filling. These are more traditional mooncakes and many Westerners (like myself) do not like the taste. Luckily, companies like Godiva and Haagen Dazs make a mooncake that has evolved to the modern Western taste. We were able to taste the Godiva chocolate mooncakes that have a fruit filling and tasted much better.
My Princess did a shadow puppet craft of the jade rabbit. According to Chinese legend, a beautiful woman, Chang Oh, was married to Hou Yi, a skilled archer and great general in the Imperial Guard. He shot down eight of the nine suns that mysteriously appeared in the sky and was awarded by the Emperor with a pill of immortality. Chang Oh was envious so she ate the pill and escaped to the moon to hide. On the moon she found a jade rabbit under a tree. The air was cold on the moon and she began coughing, eventually coughing up the pill. She wanted to amend her devious act so she asked the rabbit to pound the pill into many pieces and scatter all over the earth so everyone could be made immortal. Then she built a palace for herself to live on the moon. She is known as the Lady of the Moon and you will see her design on the mooncake crust and packaging.
We made these beautiful lanterns at the Lantern Making Workshop. Lanterns are lit and carried throughout the Mid-Autumn Festival to celebrate the brightness of the moon. My Princess and I had a great time decorating and building our lanterns.
At the Haagen Dazs in Chinatown, I was able to find a little mooncake ice cream cake with mango sorbet filling. The girls definitely prefer this version of mooncake most.
Mid-Autumn Festival Day, I found a lantern craft online and my Princess and I spent the afternoon making lanterns while my Baby napped.
I’m really proud and happy of our first Mid-Autumn Festival celebration. Next year I want to build on our experience this year and do more crafts and have our own little Mid-Autumn Festival party with lots of Haagen Dazs ice cream mooncakes.