Home away from home

Moon unites, even from ‘tens of thousands miles away’

Xiaoyu Zhu, Contributing Writer

The annual Mid-Autumn Festival celebration was held in the Henderson Campus Center lobby on Sunday, Sept. 27. The event was organized by the modern and classical language department, the Association for Asian and Asian American Awareness, Asian Studies and the International Club.

Snacks, fruits and mooncakes were provided. Mooncakes are the traditional food of the Mid-Autumn Festival. It has a round shape which symbolizes the meaning of completeness, unity and peace in Chinese culture.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is held annually on Aug. 15 in the Chinese lunar calendar. The worship of the moon is an important part of the festival celebration. In China it is believed that the full moon signifies peace, harmony and unity. The festival is celebrated by families coming together. The moon connects people who are unable to be in the same place and it represents the feelings this absence creates.

“When I was at home, we usually light lanterns, eat mooncakes, enjoy the full moon and sings traditional songs with family to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival,” Yan Xu, ’18, said.

Xiaolin Shi, assistant professor of modern and classical languages, emphasized the importance for Chinese students to be able to celebrate the festival even when they are away from home.

“We are used to seeing family members everyday at home. When we celebrate the Festival here, tens of thousands miles away from home…the importance of family reunion becomes extremely clear and obvious,” said Shi.

According to the Chinese students and faculties who attended the festival, the biggest difference in the way they celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival here is that people spent the time with friends instead of family. Yuxin Zhou, ’18, said being able to celebrate the festival at Allegheny is special.

“For me, the Mid-Autumn Festival means mooncake and unity of family. But it is a little different from the way we celebrate the festival at home. The Mid-Autumn Festival event at Allegheny College helps people from different backgrounds to know and understand Chinese culture better. Especially for Chinese students, who leave home tens of thousands miles away, having a chance to embrace a sense of belonging in an alien land is really great.” Zhou said.

Students from Japan, Korea and Vietnam who also celebrate the festival, participated in the event. Korean student, Chang Won Han, ’18, performed a Korean rap and Keigo M Chihara, an exchange student from Japan, performed a traditional Japanese dance.

“To be honest, I was so nervous before performing. However, at the same time, I thought it would be a good opportunity to show Japanese tradition. So I tried my best, ” said Mochihara. “We also celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival in Japan, but it’s different from Chinese culture. We usually visit a grave on Mid-Autumn Day to worship our ancestors.”

As well as these performances, My H.Dang, ’18, introduced the traditions of the Vietnamese Mid-Autumn Festival. According to her, the Mid-Autumn Festival in Vietnam is known as the Children’s Festival. Vietnamese tradition includes making a five-pointed-star shaped lantern as a way of celebrating the festival.

As part of the performances, students from the Chinese 101, 215 and 305 classes sang Chinese songs.

Shi explained the importance of having festivals like this at Allegheny.

“It’s a good chance for people from different background to learn another culture,” Shi said. “Especially today we have lots of people from all over the world. We look different and we have different first languages but we sit here together to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival. To respect and understand different cultures…that’s the meaning of diversity.”