Mid-Autumn Festival on Asian Music Mondays

This year, September 8th marks the mid-autumn festival, a traditional harvest holiday celebrated in various ways throughout Asia on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar.  Our new Asian Music Mondays staff members Lu, Jessica, and Suri write about how they and others celebrate this holiday.  Tune in tonight from 8-10 PM to hear a special Mid-Autumn Festival episode of Asian Music Mondays!

Chuseok 추석 (Korean Thanksgiving) by Jessica:

Chuseok, or Harvest Festival, is also originally known as Hangawi (한가위).  My favorite part of Chuseok is the food.  Right before sunrise on the morning of Chuseok, we perform Chaerye (차례), a common ancestral memorial rite.  After the family pays respect to their ancestors, we gather around to eat.
Songpyeon (송편) is a delicious Korean traditional rice cake which has a flavorful stuffing consisting of honey, jujubes, chestnuts, black beans, mung beans, sesame seeds, cinnamon, walnuts and pine nuts.  It is steamed in a pot over a fire with pine-needles.  Preparing this dish can be very difficult.  When I’m back at home, I help my mom with mixing the rice cake mixture.  It gets very sticky and slimy because of the starch and it gets really icky for me to touch.  I love eating it, but making it is a very long process and it is very messy!

YouTube video with more information about Chuseok: http://youtu.be/b9sdb7nT7nE

ZhongQiu 中秋节 (Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival) by Suri:  

The Mid-Autumn Festival, also called ZhongQiu Festival in Chinese pinyin, or “Chinese Thanksgiving”, gives Chinese people a three-day vacation to reunite with their family.  During this period, Chinese people eat a special dessert called “mooncake”, which was originally named for its round shape, just like the full moon.  The full moon is a symbol that implies completeness and happiness because of its full and round appearance.

One fairy tale related to the moon is Chang’e, who is the Moon Goddess of Immortality.  Chang’e sacrificed herself and her lover, Hou Yi, to prevent other from giving the elixir to Feng Meng, a greedy person.  She was forced to swallow the elixir and fly onto the moon.  Hence, Chinese people will display mooncake to pay tribute to the greatness of Chang’e.

In China this festival is also called Lantern Festival because we carry lit lanterns during these days, with the meaning of bringing light into other’s lives.  We also hold lanterns at night and play dēng mí (灯谜) to have fun.  Dēng mí is a game where you write down a riddle on the lantern and let others guess the answer.  With food and lanterns, children are always the happiest to celebrate this festival.

YouTube video with more information about ZhongQiu: http://youtu.be/YlBTQfvhGHs

Tsukimi 月見 (Japanese Moon-Viewing Festival) by Lu:

In Japan, people also celebrate the same festival although they call it Tsukimi, which literally means moon-viewing.  As the name suggests, Tsukimi is is a time in mid-September when people enjoy looking at the moon.  According to the lunar calendar, the full moon can be seen on the night of August 15th, a date which was called Jyuugoya (the 15th night).  In general, the moon on this night is the roundest and most beautiful of the whole year.  It is said the custom of appreciating the moon had come from China during the late Jomon Period (about 1500 BC) but it did not become a fully fledged festival until the Heian Period (about 794 A.D).

Taking cues from China, the nobility in Japan would eat and drink together, play instruments under the beautiful moonlight, and recite poetry while setting boats off to float in their ponds.  Since the full moon is a symbol for completeness, and by extension, family reunion, nowadays, Japanese people will gather together to eat, drink, and look at the moon with their families.  As for the special food, Japanese people mainly eat Tsukimi Dango (月見団子), the Japanese sweet dumpling made from sticky rice flour, because Tsukimi Dango resembles the moon in shape and symbolic connotation.  Also, taro, chestnuts, edamame and some sake are always necessary to celebrate the festival.

YouTube video with more information about Tsukimi: http://youtu.be/GNtfwPtaOw4

Tết Trung Thu (Vietnamese Mid-Autumn Festival) by Suri:

The Mid-Autumn festival is called “Tết Trung Thu” in Vietnamese, and it is celebrated in almost the same way as it is in China.  Vietnamese people also make mooncakes and have lanterns, but Vietnamese celebrations emphasize the significance of children since they represent purity and innocence, like the full moon.  Slightly different from the Chinese lantern, Vietnamese people prefer to make star-shaped lanterns instead.  They will also have a lion dance during this festival.  Dances are performed by both non-professional children’s groups and trained professional groups.  Lion dance groups perform in the streets, going to houses asking for permission to perform for them.