How Harrisites Celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival

Students share their favorite moments from the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Annie Park

Students share their favorite moments from the Mid-Autumn Festival.

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On the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month, families gather to celebrate the Mid-Autumn festival (中秋节), a joyous occasion where individuals reunite to worship the full moon and the harvest season. Also known as the Mooncake festival, this festival is a holiday that is celebrated globally, especially in East Asian countries. This year, The Classic dived into learning more about the Mid-Autumn Festival, celebrated on September 10 this year, through the perspectives and experiences of Harrisites.

Junior Joy Zheng described the holiday as “a day signifying love and the strength of family,” after sharing a story about the moon goddess Chang E, who fell in love with a human and was banished to the sky because their love was forbidden. “After the gods considered how miserable she was, they allowed her to visit him once a year, [marking the day as the] Mid-Autumn festival,” Joy said. This legendary tale was passed down from one generation to the next, and is still being taught in Chinese educational institutions today.

Junior Rachel Chan compared how the holiday is celebrated in China versus how it’s celebrated currently in New York. She said that while Queens is a diverse place where you are likely to see members of East Asian communities preparing for the festival on the streets, it’s much bigger in China: “In China, since practically everyone understands what the festival represents, it feels like a national holiday comparable to Christmas.” 

Senior Annie Lei also described how celebration practices differ in the two regions. “Along with having family dinners together [in China], celebrating the festival [includes] activities, such as moon-viewing and releasing lanterns in the sky. There are also many in China who still celebrate the holiday with traditional homemade mooncakes. This is in contrast to what we see in America, where buying mooncakes from your local bakery or Asian supermarket is more convenient than making them by hand.”

Annie also described why mooncakes are specifically purchased as gifts and eaten during the Mid-Autumn festival by stating, “The festival [is not] the same with[out] mooncakes. The rich and salty yolk in the center balances the sweetness of the lotus filling around it. With the yolk representing the fullest and brightest moon of the year, sharing a slice of moon cake with family signifies the togetherness and warmth of your loved ones. It goes perfectly with a warm cup of jasmine tea on an autumn night.”

In the past few years, Harrisites have celebrated the holiday differently because of the safety restrictions that were implemented due to the pandemic. Annie said she celebrated the holiday more privately in recent years. “[After my primary relatives] have a well-prepared dinner together, [we] light incense and pray to the moon for its blessings. When we pray, we also set a chicken, mooncakes, and a bowl of fruits on the table as offerings.” 

Rachel said, “We celebrate it with our close family relatives, which [include] my aunt and uncle. We live only ten minutes away from each other, so it is quite easy to organize celebrations this way. I absolutely love going to my uncle’s house to get hit with wafts of delicious food ready to be eaten.” 

Joy said that she was able to feel a stronger connection with distant relatives and value her family more due to the holiday. “During the mid-autumn festival [every year], distant family members from different states would travel to New York to celebrate with us. I was also introduced to a new cousin recently. I get to reunite with all my family members, and it celebrates the fortitude and significance of family. We also have traditional dishes that include dumplings, purple rice, homemade desserts, [and more].”

For junior Camille Lin, her family’s celebration of the Mid-Autumn festival incorporates other forms of traditional dishes: “[During 中秋节] , we usually eat traditional dishes, such as crab and duck…many also eat snails during this holiday.”

Annie said, “It’s a very nostalgic feeling to welcome the autumn season. It’s one of the holidays that I look forward to every year because no matter how busy your life can be, the Mid-Autumn festival is a time…with your family.”