“When will the moon be clear and bright? Holding a cup of wine/I ask the blue sky...”
On a mid-autumn night in 1076, a great Chinese poet pondered the above question. Fast forward to 2021 where on a mid-autumn night, I too am holding a cup of wine like the great Chinese poet and imploring the blue sky - when will this pandemic end, when can I finally have a proper family reunion on our traditional festival day? Sadly, I’ve had to celebrate this important Chinese tradition of family reunion at a hotel staycation and meeting my family over Skype.
In ancient China, people observed rituals, traditions and celebrations typically associated with the movements of the moon. The roundness of the full moon has come to symbolize family togetherness. Chinese people have traditionally placed much value and emphasis on family, hence the theme of reunion is a common feature in almost all traditional festivals. The Mid-Autumn Festival being one of the biggest of Chinese traditions is an important day for people to have a big family gathering to celebrate a good harvest and to prepare and pray for a safe and peaceful winter ahead.
Just like some of us caught in this pandemic and unable to return home, similarly not everyone in ancient China were lucky enough to return home to celebrate the mid-autumn with their loved ones and enjoy wholesome homemade meals. This feeling of nostalgia and the pull of home, arguably, are most felt by the people who were not able to return home on the 15th night of the eighth lunar month which is when the moon is at its most full. As a consequence, many great poems were composed by or for these nostalgic travellers by the Chinese literati inspired by the beauty of the full moon and its significance to the Chinese people. These elegant works of poetry about the moon have been read and shared through the ages and recited at many mid-autumn’s night reunion dinners.
On the subject of the Chinese tradition of moon worship, here is a fun fact: if you take a close look at the calendar of Hong Kong Public Holidays, you may find that people will still be working on the 15th, namely, the day of the Mid-Autumn Festival. But they will take a day off the day after (the 16th). This is because the Chinese believe the moon would present brighter and rounder on the 16th night, and that the day after the festival is the best time to appreciate the moon.
The ongoing pandemic has certainly curtailed big festive celebrations but at THS, we managed to squeeze in a couple of fun activities for the students.
The festival is celebrated in Hong Kong with fire dragon dances (the Tai Hang dragon dance is the most well known) , dragon boat races, and colourful lantern displays. These are the festive activities that have become popular in the Pearl River area including the Canton region and Hong Kong. However, different regions and ethnic groups in China have different ways of celebrating this important day.
Students at THS are encouraged to inquire and understand the cultural and historical significance of various traditional Chinese festivals through a range of engaging activities designed by our language team. Over the past few years, our students have learned about how family values are cherished in Chinese culture, and how the festival is celebrated, learning traditional Chinese arts and crafts, peering behind the folklore of Chang Er as well as making traditional festive food in the run up to the mid-autumn festival. Every year, our THS community would donate mooncakes which would be distributed by our students to the aged homes in Ap Lei Chau. So while we cannot celebrate this Mid-Autumn Festival with our families in China, we are glad to be able to celebrate with our students and teach them the significance of this Chinese tradition so that they too may appreciate family togetherness on this day.
Pic 1: This year the annual lantern display at Victoria Park was cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions, so instead we made colourful lanterns to decorate our classrooms.
Pic 2-3: Practicing the ancient art of calligraphy, our students are wishing you a very happy Mid-Autumn Festival.
Pic 4: It is a pity that some of us cannot go back home to celebrate this traditional festival with our beloved ones, but we can send our best wishes via these beautiful cards.