The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, falls on Tuesday this year. The festival has been celebrated for more than 3,000 years and involves moon worship, lantern making and family gatherings.
In ancient times, the emperor would worship and give offerings to the moon to give thanks to the moon goddess for a prosperous year, said Neal Szu-Yen Liang, assistant professor of practice in Chinese.
It’s the second most important festival in China after Chinese New Year and is celebrated in various Asian countries including Japan, Vietnam and South Korea.
In Chinese culture, the full moon is considered a symbol of reunion and is believed to be the brightest and most beautiful during this holiday. The public holiday lasts three days and families gather like Thanksgiving in American culture.
UTA helped sponsor the 14th Annual Mid-Autumn Festival event held in Asia Times Square in Grand Prairie last weekend. In an interview with Radio Saigon Dallas, interim President Teik C. Lim said that when he was young, this festival was one of his favorite holidays to celebrate.
The university is so diverse, Lim said sponsoring this event came naturally.
William Nguyen, Asia Times Square assistant operations manager, said he wanted this year's festival event to show what the celebration is like. Asia Times Square’s mission is to preserve tradition and promote culture while connecting communities, Nguyen said.
Students shared their experiences and some ways to celebrate the festival.
Nursing junior Michael Ha said his family usually goes to their church, where there’s food such as mooncakes, games and lion dances.
His favorite memory was participating in the lion dance with friends, Ha said.
There’s no school or work during this holiday, and people would travel to their hometown to reunite with their families, Liang said.
Mooncakes, which come in various shapes and flavors, are a significant part of the celebration. Some of the fillings include lotus seed, red bean, mixed nuts and salted egg yolk, which symbolizes the moon.
“It resembles the feelings that we have when we meet our families,” Liang said. “We feel definite sweet feelings inside, and the shape resembles the roundness of reunification of families.”
Lantern making also takes place. Lanterns should never be white because the color symbolizes death and is used during funerals, Liang said. There are lanterns people can write wishes on, hang in trees or on houses, ones that fly in the sky and some that float on rivers.
In South Korea, the festival is known as Chuseok. People visit their hometowns, share a feast of traditional food and even go to cemeteries to honor deceased loved ones.
On Chuseok, Koreans wear hanbok, which are colorful and elegant clothes that have been around for over 1,600 years. These are a symbol of the country’s traditional culture and lifestyle and are only worn during special occasions.
Instead of mooncakes, Koreans celebrate with songpyeon, small half moon-shaped rice cakes with a sweet filling, which are traditionally steamed on a bed of fresh pine needles.
Hyuna Choi, Korean adjunct assistant professor, said when she was little she would dress in a hanbok, make songpyeon and help prepare the food. It's an opportunity for the entire family to get together and share a good time, she said.
“You get to see not only your side of the family but the extended family as well,” Choi said.