Mooncakes, lanterns and crafts: Lafayette celebrates Mid-Autumn Festival

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Teaching assistant Jen-Feng Liu painted a lantern at the Mid-Autumn Festival. (Photo courtesy of Jen-Feng Liu)

It is not unusual for students who live away from campus to miss their loved ones. Those who attended Lafayette’s Mid-Autumn Festival observance last week had the opportunity to celebrate the fact that no matter how far one may be from those they love, they will always see the same moon.

On Sept. 9, students and faculty gathered outside of Farinon College Center to observe the Mid-Autumn Festival. Students from various cultural backgrounds sang traditional Chinese songs, played games, practiced calligraphy and painted brightly colored lanterns with various patterns.

Lafayette has celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival on campus for over 10 years.

The Mid-Autumn Festival honors the ancient myth of Hou Yi, an archer who saved the world and was awarded magical potions to give him immortality. In his heroic yet tragic tale, his wife Chang’e is transported to the moon when she drinks one of his potions. Although she is granted immortality, she is forever far away from her husband. Traditionally, the festival is held in dedication to Chang’e.

The distance between Chang’e and her husband can be understood by any student who is far away from their family while they attend college. For students far away from their home country, the distance is even greater.

“[The festival is] a time of family reunion. On that day, I’m sure that every Chinese heritage descendant all over the world would love to call their parents,” Professor Han Luo of the languages and literary studies department said. 

The festival is usually celebrated on Aug. 15 when the moon is considered to be at its roundest. Because of the moon motif, the festival served traditional Chinese mooncakes. Festival attendants also participated in games, including a challenge where one must pick up as many small candies with chopsticks as they can in a limited amount of time.

Susanna Hontz ’24, co-president of the Asian Cultural Association (ACA), learned a lot about Asian culture while organizing the festival.

“It’s nice to bring [an] outside culture that you might not be familiar with, and be able to enjoy it and interact with it,” Hontz said. “So, bringing it to the rest of the campus and allowing people who were used to celebrating it in their homes or with their families or in their hometowns with their families is really nice.”

Teaching assistant Jen-Feng Liu emphasized that the festival helps first- and second-generation Chinese students feel represented on campus.

“It’s a good way for them to get to know more about this society and to know about our customs. And also for people in Lafayette that are not that familiar with these customs, they will have a chance to get to know more,” Liu said.

For Chinese Professor Yingying Huang, the festival brings back memories from her childhood of gathering outdoors with her family and neighbors and sharing traditional Chinese foods and drinks. 

It’s full of memories for me,” Huang said. She brought her daughter to the festival and was delighted to see her experiencing the festivities on campus.

Lafayette is home to many other cultural celebrations. In the future, there will be a calligraphy workshop and a Lunar New Year celebration where students can continue to celebrate and pay tribute to Chinese and Asian cultures. Additionally, ACA will be partnering with the South Asian Student Association to celebrate Diwali later this semester.

ACA holds meetings every Friday at 5 p.m. Students from all cultural backgrounds are welcome to join and attend.