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Moon Festival

October 6, 2009

Lanterns

Having spent a lot of time in Chinatown in the past I was kind of surprised to discover a festival taking place there that I had never heard of, the Moon Festival. And as I began to look into it, I found out that it is actually the second most important festival of the year in China. Again with the mystery of why I had not heard of it, but from what I gathered this festival is much more personal than the Chinese New Year celebrations.

The celebration is a harvest festival that takes place around the end of September or early October (the date is determined by the Chinese calendar not the Gregorian) and includes worship to Chang O who rose to the moon with her rabbit and is said to be seen dancing there on the day of the Moon Festival. Celebration in the home country usually includes dinner with the entire family, moon cakes, and paper lanterns lit everywhere. In a children’s book written by Ching Yeung Russell, in which she recounts her childhood memories of the Moon Festival, she describes the smells of moon cakes being baked in the stores and parading through the town with her friends after dinner carrying lit lanterns and making noise. For more information on the festival and pictures of moon cakes you can visit the Wikipedia entry.

New date pasted overHere the public celebration was held in the Chicago Chinatown Square. When I first saw the banners up the date was for Sept. 26th, though when we actually made the trip down that day (after double checking it online) we found that the festival had actually been moved to the next day (see picture of banner with date posted over). I am sure if I spoke Chinese I might have caught the change, but as I am handicapped in that manner there was no choice but to just come back later.

We did take advantage of the situation however and went to a local bakery and bought a couple of moon cakes; one with red bean and yolk and one with lotus seed. Both were beautifully decorated and very dense. I preferred the lotus seed, but overall I ended up letting my husband eat them.

We came back the next day for the festivities and arrived in time to see the Lion Dance from the train and the ‘Feast for 1000 Elders’ finish up. There was a large stage set up in the square with paper lanterns hung everywhere. At the side there was a place where you could make your own lantern and have something (which I did not understand) written in calligraphy.

Solo singer onstageAfter quickly stopping at Joy Yee’s for some bubble tea we settled down in one of the seats left open by the departing elders and watched the show. It was all in Chinese so we did not understand any of it, but we enjoyed watching the different dances, singers, and martial artists. (Pictures of the entire event are on my Flickr Photostream)

I had hoped to see the light ceremony that was listed on the program I managed to pick up, but they did not seem to be actually following the lineup as it was printed, so when they approached the Dumpling eating contest we decided to call it a night.

Unfortunately because it was a cloudy night the moon made a very weak appearance, but overall it was a beautiful event on a lovely fall evening. There were a lot of families out enjoying the festivities and it made for a very relaxed and comfortable atmosphere. Next year Moon Festival is definitely on the to-do list.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 9, 2009 12:39 am

    Chinese Moon Festival sounds fun, although I’ve never heard of it myself, either!

    On the other hand, I have attended a Moonshine festival of which I’m almost certain I did see a woman dancing with a rabbit on the moon, but the memories are foggy at best!

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