The Mid-Autumn festival is traditionally a time meant to spend with family; however, the absence of familial ties in college has driven clubs and organizations to fill the gap by hosting events for students to gather together and celebrate the holiday.
The Mid-Autumn festival is celebrated throughout Asia, and different countries have their own unique traditions. This year, the holiday falls on Sept. 29, the fifteenth day of the eighth month in the lunar calendar, when Chinese custom dictates the moon is the fullest and brightest.
The festival dates back over 3,000 years in China and celebrates the moon, harvest season and family ties. It is associated with the legend of Chang E, a goddess who ascended to the moon with her pet rabbit after accidentally drinking (or stealing, depending on the version) an elixir of immortality meant for her husband, Hou Yi.
Around this time of year, South Korea celebrates a holiday called Chuseok where families dress in hanboks, play games and eat food. This is also a time for paying respect to ancestors and expressing gratitude.
In Vietnam, Tết Trung Thu is celebrated every year. Families feast, and communities oftentimes hold parades that include activities such as carrying lanterns, lion dancing and wearing áo dài.
In Japan, the festival is called Tsukimi. A snack called tsukimi-dango is made during this holiday and eggs are a particularly important ingredient in Tsukimi cuisine, as they resemble a full moon.
For Wanxi Wang, the Chinese language resident at Oldenborg Center, the Mid-Autumn Festival is a time for family reunion.
“Last year, I had the festival with my family, but now I’m far, far away,” Wang said. “But one thing that makes me happy is that I can spend this festival with students.”
Wang is hosting a mooncake-making event on Friday evening. Mooncakes, which can be both sweet and savory, are traditionally eaten in China to celebrate the festival.
“With the mid autumn festival it seems like everything is round,” Wang said. “The moon is round, mooncakes are round and we eat dinner at a round table because we want to [symbolize] reunion.”
At the event, students will fill dough premade by Wang with red bean and lotus seed paste and then stamp the top of the mooncake with different symbolic designs.
Serena Li PO ’26 grew up in a Chinese American household and remembers eating mooncakes every Mid-Autumn festival.
“To me, food was a really important part of my cultural identity growing up and mooncakes are definitely an annual snack — so I always look forward to receiving them as gifts or eating them around this time of year,” Li said.
Li is the co-president of Tea Circle, a club that meets every Saturday to eat snacks and drink tea they brew themselves. Although Tea Circle is a social activity of Claremont Buddhism Club, Li said it has no Buddhist element.
On Saturday, Sept. 30, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in Walker Lounge, Tea Circle will collaborate with Cantonese club to host a mid-autumn themed tea circle, where they will be serving mooncakes and other traditional festival snacks, as well as brewing tea, Li said.
“We hope that people can come out, try some snacks and tea and celebrate mid-autumn with us or get a feeling of what the holiday is about,” Li said.
These two are just a few of the many events happening across the Claremont Colleges this weekend. Below is a list of the different ways students are celebrating:
- Make mooncakes in the Chinese Lounge at Oldenborg Language Hall, Sept. 29, 7 p.m.
- Mid-Autumn Festival Tea Circle, Walker Lounge, Sept. 30, 3-6 p.m.
- Watch the movie Ne Zha (2019) with snacks, hosted by the Chinese Liaisons, Estella 1021, Sept. 30, 6-8 p.m.
- Lantern making and mooncake eating hosted by Chinese Students and Scholars Association and CMC’s College Programming Board, Kravis Lawn, Sept. 29, 7-8:30 p.m.
- Harvey Mudd College Mid-Autumn Festival with food, hosted by the Exploring Pan-Asian Identity and Culture Club, on the lawn between Drinkward and Case, Sept. 30, 7-9 p.m.