Tag Archives: mid-autumn festival

Vietnamese Mid-Autumn Festival

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Vietnamese
Age: 25
Occupation: PhD Candidate
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 2/15/2020
Primary Language: Vietnamese
Other Language(s): english

Transcribed from my friend telling me about an event from his childhood memories. 

There is a festival that happens in Vietnam in the autumn, or mid-fall. It goes according to the lunar calendar, it is on the 15th day of the 8th month, which is usually somewhere between september and october according to the western gregorian calendar. I’m not gonna lie, it was pretty lit. I’m sure you’ve seen pictures, it has the mooncakes and the fun red lanterns. It seems to mean something different for many people, but what i have always gleaned from it and what my family and surrounding area focused on was the simplicity of it. A lot of people are poor, so these lanterns are made out of paper and it is just a fun thing for kids to run around and play with. It was never a super fancy thing, but the moon cakes are great. As kids we would literally just run around with our friends and our lanterns. Sometimes you could use this as an opportunity to flex on the people around you by bringing a cooler or more complex lantern than your friends. People could make lanterns there. There was this giant dragon that people would get inside of and dance in. It was just a really lovely time to be a kid and hang out and families were all cool with each other for the most part then and outside things didn’t matter, just the quality time with the people around you. 

Background:

The informant grew up in south Vietnam. While he hasn’t been back to Vietnam since he moved here for school nine years ago, he still has found memories of moments like this. He really appreciates the more family-focused and genuine interactions the culture there can promote versus the often isolationist  and heavily commercialized culture he experiences in the states. 

Context: 

I asked my friend about his favorite memories growing up at home. We were just eating dinner before quarantine was in place in Los Angeles and reminiscing about our childhood and simpler times in the world. 

My thoughts: 

Growing up in Southern California in the U.S. I often feel I did not necessarily get wholesome family experiences as they are not as attainable in the culture here. The closest thing I can think of would be going to Disneyland with my family, but that was more or less a financial burden on my parents for my sibling and I to have fun. Nothing ever really joy filled for us all to come together and just vibe, outside of maybe 4th of July. 

Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival and Myth about the Moon

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Chinese America
Age: 23
Occupation: part time tutor
Residence: Hong Kong
Date of Performance/Collection: April 23
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

This is a transcription of an interview with a friend from high school, identified as A. In this piece, I am identified as IC.

IC: Can you tell me about Mid-Autumn festival?

A: Okay, so Mid-Autumn festival is a festival that is closely tied to Chinese traditions of celebrating the harvest. It’s in the fall, typically in late September or October usually September. And so, a large part of the Mid-Autumn festival is the celebration of family gatherings as well because the roundness of the moon is supposed to be symbolic of everyone sitting around the table at family gatherings. There’s also another huge component, which is moon worship that comes from a Chinese myth.

IC: Okay, can you tell me about that myth?

A: Yeah, so there was this man called Hou Yi who was really good at archery. One day, there was a huge drought because there were ten different suns in the sky, and he shot down nine of the suns and left the only last one up so we could still have sunlight.

IC: Wait, I feel like I’ve heard this before.

A: Yeah, you probably heard it in like high school.

IC: Probably. Anyway, continue.

A: Right, so this immortal was impressed by Hou Yi, so he gave him an elixir for immortality, but he didn’t want to be immortal without his wife and it was only a one-person kind of deal. He decided to not take it and instead kept it and have his wife, Chang’e be the keeper of the elixir to guard it. But one day when he was out doing something official like, official business or whatever, Chang’e was approached by Hou Yi’s apprentice who demanded that she give him the elixir. Instead of handing it over she took the potion herself and became immortal. Then, she ascended to the moon and so now people worship Chang’e as a kind of goddess of the moon to commemorate her bravery and quick thinking.

My family doesn’t worship her, but I guess it depends on other people or what you believe in, like I’m sure many people still worship gods in China, especially in more rural communities.

IC: What does your family do in mid-Autumn festival to celebrate it?

A: So, we gather together as a family and a popular tradition in China is eating mooncakes. Mooncakes are like… I’m going to call them pastries or like cakes that are made with really dense white lotus paste and most of the traditional ones have an egg yolk in the middle. Recently, there have been a lot of creative kind of recreations over the years. For example, recently, there have been mochi ones and like sesame flavoured ones.

IC: I miss mooncakes, like the ones without yolk. The ones with yolk are gross. Is there anything else your family does?

A: Same, we’re the minority. Uh, not really. It’s just mostly a nighttime celebration but lanterns are a part of the celebration, I think. When I was younger, I would go outside with an electric paper lantern and play around and hang them up. The reason why lanterns are important is not very well known. It seems to be that lanterns have become a symbol of the festival.

Background:

My informant is 23 years old and she is my friend from high school, which was in Hong Kong. She went to New York for college and graduated last year. She is currently working in Hong Kong.

Context:

I asked her about this tradition because I vaguely remember learning about Chinese traditions for Mid-Autumn Festival during Chinese class in high school. I also remember eating mooncakes in Hong Kong, even though my family didn’t celebrate it the same way. I thought it would be interesting to ask someone who comes from a Chinese/Hong Kong background to ask about the specifics since I don’t know much about it. All I knew was from textbooks designed for speakers learning it as a second language.

Thoughts:

Hearing my friend talk about how her family celebrates it and the traditions that she knows about was interesting to hear as different countries celebrate it differently. It was informative to learn about the story of Hou Yi and Chang’e and although worshipping the moon goddess is something everyone does, it was still interesting to learn about the tradition and the importance of the moon.

Legend behind Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival

--Informant Info--
Nationality: French/ Chinese
Age: 23
Occupation: Accountant
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 2/25/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): French, Mandarin

The following story was told to me by my friend:

So in China we have the Mid-Autumn festival, as I am sure you have heard of, the mooncakes are famous. But, what a lot of people do not know is the myth of how it came to be. It all became long ago. There is a princess who lives on the moon in her moon castle with her little bunny. And as it goes, on the full moon -the 15th day of the month on the Lunar calendar- the princess could see Earth at its fullest. Every full moon she would look down at earth and she would always look at this one farmer and she eventually fell in love with him from afar. So one day, she went down to Earth and disguised herself as a human. Her and the farmer fell in love and she was happy on Earth. Then one day her brother noticed she was missing, so he searched for her and found her on Earth having married a mortal human. Outraged, he came down to Earth, and took her from her lover since it was a disgrace that a god would marry a human and he took her back to the moon. There, he imprisoned her in her castle and she could no longer see her lover. Eventually, the other gods felt bad for her because she was so very sad. So they made the agreement that in Autumn on the full moon she is allowed to go down once a year to visit her lover. So, the festival happens on the full moon on the 15th in Mid-Autumn every year and it is all about reunion and time with loved ones. 

Background: 

The informant is ½ Chinese and ½ French. While she spent the first 13 years of her life in Paris, she moved to Shanghai for high School to reconnect with her Chinese heritage. This story is one of her all time favorite stories from Chinese culture that her grandmother would tell her. She holds it very close to her. 

Context: 

The informant is a good friend of mine, and the conversation was held organically as she was reminiscing about things she loves about her culture one night over dinner at an Italian restaurant in downtown Los Angeles. 

My thoughts: 

I found this to be such a cute and lovely legend to how the festival came to be. Another one of my friends loves the Mid-Autumn festival. He is from Vietnam though, and while he never mentioned this moon princess story, he also loves the festival and what it signified for him and his friends and family spending time together. I love how this festival brings up such good memories for many of the people I have spoken to and it shows such a wholesome lineage between cultures.