Enjoying various flavored mooncakes and listening to C-pop classics under the glow of the full moon, students gathered on Gelb Lawn last Saturday for Asian Society’s celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival—a traditional harvest holiday celebrated across East and Southeast Asia every fall of the lunar calendar.
“[Mid-Autumn Festival] would always be a time when my family and I would reunite because a lot of people would send mooncakes. I learned from researching online that the moon represents unity and how we should come together as a community to kind of be in each other’s presence and be grateful for that. I think that’s what the Mid-Autumn Festival represents,” said Chloe Kindangen ’23, Co-Head of Asian Society.
To organize the event, Asian Society coordinated with faculty members, including Christopher Capano, Director of Student Activities, and Susan Esty, Dean of Students and Residential Life, to secure funding for mooncakes and other materials. On top of the logistics of the event, Kindangen also aimed to emphasize inclusivity in the Mid-Autumn Festival celebration: anyone could come, not just those of Asian heritage or those taking an Asian language on campus.
“One thing that we had to talk about was where we wanted to host this event and also the funding necessary to buy all the mooncakes and also coordinate with a lot of the faculty on campus… because it is a schoolwide event. I also think that’s something that I wanted to talk about— making sure that this celebration is open to anyone,” said Kindangen.
East and Southeast Asian students found solidarity in this culturally significant celebration. According to Ethan Sun ’23, Co-Head of the Asian Society, the event helped him connect to his culture in a more intentional way, as he was able to enjoy the view of the moon and remember the classic Mid-Autumn Festival origin myth of the archer Hou Yi and his wife Chang’e, the moon goddess.
“When I’m at home, I eat Chinese food all the time… so I’m not necessarily thinking of my culture all the time, even though I’m surrounded by it. Zhong Qiu Jie, Chinese [for] Mid-Autumn Festival, is a nice time to remember, ‘Oh, I’m Chinese. The food that I eat and the culture that surrounds me is really comforting in this way,’” said Sun.
In addition to serving as an occasion for students to celebrate their culture, the event also introduced attendees of different heritages to the traditions and history of the Mid-Autumn Festival. Many students, like Max Berkenblit ’24, tried mooncakes for the first time.
“I really wanted to try a mooncake for a while because I’ve seen a lot of videos showing recipes and stuff like that, and I figured now was as good a time as any to try one and see what flavors they had… and [they] were, in fact, delicious,” said Berkenblit.
Taking place in the first few weeks of school, the Mid-Autumn Festival also helped foster connections within the campus community. Chloe Rhee ’24, who attended the event as a returning student, said she enjoyed the opportunity to meet new people while learning about Chinese culture.
“I’m Korean, so I don’t know as much about Chinese culture as I would like to, so this is a really fun way to get exposed to different things and kind of learn more about cultures I didn’t know that much about before…. It is kind of a fun way to learn about new cultures and also feel solidarity as an Asian person in celebrating other Asian traditions on campus,” said Rhee.
Without Covid-19-related restrictions, Asian Society focused on community healing in the revitalization of social bonds. Overall, the Mid-Autumn Festival celebration sought to establish a safe and welcoming space for all students, new and returning alike.
“This is kind of… an event geared towards bringing people together—especially new students, international students, returning students—and because it’s our first community event as the Asian Society, we’re really hoping that this event creates a space where people can introduce themselves, eat mooncakes together, and have fun to be a part of a nice community,” said Avin Ramratnam ’24, a board member of Asian Society.
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