The Mid-Autumn Festival: Traditions of Family Reunion During a Pandemic

In October, the traditional Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated. This festival has been celebrated for a long time, with roots coming from Chinese mythology. 

“In the past years, I traveled to my grandparents’ house to celebrate this festival with them together,” freshman Hercules Zhang said. “But because of the coronavirus this year, I video-called my grandparents and appreciated the moon with them together. It really was an extraordinary experience for me.”

The festival is based on a legend that a hero, Hou-Yi, saves the earth and is rewarded with the elixir of life. His wife, Chang-E, is given the opportunity to safeguard the elixir. After Chang-E is threatened by evil people who want the elixir, she swallows it and becomes a moon fairy. The distraught Hou-Yi bows down to the moon, praying and hoping that Chang-E can return to his side. 

In order to commemorate the kind-hearted couple, people eat a sweet and round dessert (mooncake) that symbolizes Hou-Yi’s and Chang-E’s hopefully sweet reunion. 

“In the past years, the Chinese Culture Club had the Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations and mooncake tasting for faculty, staff and students at school,” Chinese Teacher Min Wang said. “I went to a Chinese bakery and got mooncakes of different styles—the Guangdong cuisine and Suzhou cuisine.” 

The traditional mooncake is the five-nuts mooncake, which is eaten because the pronunciation of “nut” and “compassionate” is the same in Chinese. 

“Even during the special quarantine period, my family followed the Chinese traditions just like usual,”  freshman Leah Li said. “We had mooncakes and our prayers and gratitude aren’t less sincere than any of the past years.”

Most importantly, the Mid-Autumn Festival is a time for family reunions. Autumn is the season for harvest, so on the night of the festival, people make delicious food and eat together with their family while watching the bright, round moon. An ancient Chinese poem, “When Will the Moon Be Bright Again,” depicts this special day when “we wish each other a long life so as to share the beauty of this graceful moonlight, even though miles apart.” 

During this year of uncertainty, it is especially important that we make time to see our family, so family reunion is very precious. Although many GDS students and staff could not celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival with their families this year, the spirit of the holiday was not lost.