Are you celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival?
By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang
I bought three boxes of mooncakes, early this year — two boxes for my mom and one box for my kids.
But then one daughter tucked two boxes into her suitcase and another daughter tucked the other box into her suitcase, and they went off to visit Po Po together, so my mom got all the mooncakes.
And all the daughters, too.
For our family, the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival (Zhong Qiu Jie, Tet Trung Thu, Chuseok) means educational presentations and cultural celebrations at Chinese schools and universities and nonprofits. I introduce the Moon Festival as a harvest festival like Thanksgiving, Halloween, and Oktoberfest. I talk about how the Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar – the months are lunar but the year is anchored in place by the solar solstices. I share cultural traditions and tell stories about Chang-E, the Moon Lady; the Jade Rabbit pounding an elixir of immortality; Wu Gang, the woodcutter, and the acacia tree; Chú Cuội, the Moon Boy, and the banyan tree. My kids perform, we make Moon Lady and Jade Rabbit papercut crafts, and then we bake mooncakes.
But my favorite part is the night of the moon festival. After all the presentations are done, the kids and I get out our winter coats, light our lanterns, and walk down to the park at the end of the street. We sit on the picnic table eating mooncakes while the kids take turns composing poems about the moon while doing funny impressions of ancient Chinese poets and scholars. We think about our relatives who live so far away. And then we make wishes on the moon.
Song dynasty Chinese poet Su Shi wrote of the festival, “May we live long and share the beauty of the moon together, even if we are hundreds of miles apart.”
Now my kids are grown.
And I’m like Chang-E, alone on the moon, waiting for everyone to come home for dinner.
A recent study, the STAATUS Index, by nonprofit LAAUNCH looked at national attitudes and stereotypes towards Asian Americans and found that a large percentage of Americans do not know about the history and experience of Asian Americans. When asked, “When you think about the history and experience of Asian Americans in this country, what significant events or policies come to mind?” 42 percent said they did not know, 17 percent said World War II Internment, 14 percent said the atomic bomb/attack on Pearl Harbor, 8 percent said building railroads, 4 percent said Vietnam War, and 3 percent said COVID.
The study also found that all racial groups thought education is the best way to fight anti-Asian American racism. Asian Americans think both education and stronger laws/greater protection are needed.
So as we launch into another school year, I am excited that my state’s Department of Education is launching a series of webinars for teachers about the history and contributions of Asian Americans and other communities of color.
“Our children deserve to learn about the full breadth of the history of the United States and world,” said Michigan’s State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice. “Some of history’s chapters are challenging, uncomfortable, or even searing — particularly those that deal with race, racism, xenophobia, and sexism — but our young people need to learn about all of history and to wrestle with the complexity of our history.”