BY SAVANNAH HARRIMAN-POTE '20
In conjunction with the Chinese Music Ensemble, the Chinese Cultural Association (CCA) hosted their annual Mooncake Festival on Skinner Green on Friday, Sept. 29. The celebration featured traditional and contemporary music, games and — of course -— mooncake.
According to the official website of the Beijing government, the Mooncake Festival, also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival, traditionally falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month and coincides with the full moon. The festival commemorates the end of the harvest season and celebrations often include feasts of fresh fruit.
The website reported that mid-Autumn traditions honoring the moon arose in the ancient Xia and Shang Dynasties (21st-11th century BC), but that many tenets of the modern Mid-Autumn Festival were popularized in the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. Today, customary celebrations vary widely among the provinces of China, but all emphasize the Mid-Autumn Festival as a time of “relaxation and gratitude.”
At the CCA’s festival, participants played Chinese schoolyard games, including sha bao (hacky sack), jianzi (shuttlecock) and tiàoshéng (jump rope) and enjoyed performances by the Chinese Music Ensemble. During the games and performances, students snacked on the festival’s signature dessert, the mooncake.
The website of the People’s Republic of China states that the mooncake’s significance derives from the folklore of Chang’e, the Chinese moon goddess. Although there are several iterations of the legend of Chang’e, most versions contend that the mortal Chang’e became a goddess after consuming the elixir of life. While the elixir granted Chang’e immortality, it also caused her to float to the moon, separating her from her husband Hou Yi. The despairing Hou Yi created an altar in honor of Chang’e with an offering of mooncakes, the goddess’s favorite food.
The mooncake comes in many forms. The China Daily reports that traditional mooncake is made with lotus bean paste and egg yolk but different provinces of China have their own regional preparations and flavors. On Friday, the CCA offered mooncakes with traditional lotus paste filling, as well as those filled with red bean, date and pineapple.
According to TIME magazine, mooncakes have expanded their flavor profile in recent decades to suit an international market. Tiffany Huang ’21, an international student and member of the CCA, recognized the growing phenomenon of mooncakes abroad. “There are a lot of new flavors coming out,” said Huang. “Seafood flavor, spicy mooncake […] It’s not traditional, but it’s a new way for people to celebrate the festival.”
Though “mooncake festival” is the best known pseudonym of the mid-autumn Festival, the official website of the Beijing government notes that to many, the celebration is known as the “Festival of Reunion.” Jingfei Chen ’20 described the festival as an opportunity for families and friends to spend time together. “It’s important for Chinese students to have this event on campus and experience a traditional atmosphere,” Tianyi Zhou ’21, said “the most important aspect [of the festival] is to call the Chinese students together and make them feel at home, because we are so far away from home.”