Mid-Autumn Moon Festival — Trung Thu Festival

moon-webThe date of the Mid Autumn Moon Festival for 2013, is September 19.  That is the date of the full “harvest” moon for September.  I’ve done a little reading on this festival, and it looks like it is celebrated primarily by Chinese and Vietnamese, but also a couple other places like Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau.  So it is not as widely celebrated as Lunar New Year.

It appears to be a more important festival in Vietnam than China. In Vietnam, it is considered the second most important holiday tradition (Lunar New Year being first).  In China, it only became a public holiday in 2008.  This may explain why in the Washington, DC area, it is the Vietnamese who have a public celebration and the Chinese community does not.  I called the Chinese Culture and Community Service Center in Gaithersburg, MD a couple of years ago to see if they had a celebration.  They said they had a lunch for seniors.  In Vietnam, it is a holiday to celebrate children.   This years Trung Thu celebration is on September 15, in Arlington, VA.  This is a time when Vietnamese Boy Scout and Girl  Scout troops put on games for smaller children and earn money by selling food and drinks.   There are games and performances and a lantern parade. This is one of my favorite festivals put on by the Vietnamese community.  It looks like the Eden Center is also having a celebration of the Moon Festival on Saturday September 21. You can see the poster here.

Someone posted on MyAsianKidDC facebook page about how to celebrate the holiday with a third grade class.  My first thought was a field trip to the Trung Thu Festival.  But that is on a Sunday and not something you could do in class.

Grace Lin has a wonderfully illustrated book “Thanking the Moon; Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival“.  It talks about going out on the evening of the full moon and having a nighttime picnic, eating mooncakes and thanking the moon.  After reading the book many times, last year, when Danny was 5, he started asking if we were going to go do that.  I guess the answer is no, not really.  We aren’t going to have a picnic outside in the full moon after his bedtime.  We aren’t going to have a lantern parade (at home at least).  And I feel more comfortable with thanking Buddha or Jesus rather than the moon.   And every year or two I try a moon cake they give us at the Trung Thu Festival and end up spitting out the first bite.  Danny has yet to try it.   Like Lunar New Year, I have to come up with a celebration I feel comfortable with.  So far we have not celebrated it at home.

Lin Yi’s Lantern is another book about the moon festival. This reader mentioned it and it is now in my Amazon cart, but I probably won’t buy it until after the moon festival when there is more than $25 in my cart, so I can get free shipping.

I know there are people who have created a westernized moon cake and that is what I’m going to have to do if we are ever going to eat mooncakes.  Here is a short video on making a western mooncake, but it doesn’t come with a recipe. So I am still going to have to come up with one.  The book, “Moonbeams, Dumplings and Dragon Boats“, has a chapter on the mid-autumn moon festival.  It also has a recipe for a westernized one, with apricots, dates, raisins and coconut.  I’m not sure it is going to appeal to our family.  We would have to have a chocolate one to really be appreciated.  The book says you can get a mooncake mold at Woks N’ Things in Chicago.  I called, they are $19.95 for the mooncake mold and $12 for shipping and they will ship out of town.  I hadn’t checked since last year, but this year you can buy mooncake molds on Amazon.  Do a search on “mooncake mold” and see all the choices.

Of course if you are planning to do a presentation for a child’s class, you could buy the mooncakes from an Asian market.

At Trung Thu, they play children’s games.  One I found on the internet was a Mooncake Dice Game.  You need 6 dice and lots of trinkets as prizes. This web site goes into the instructions pretty thoroughly.

And of course you need a lantern parade. I was looking online to find the kind of children’s lanterns they have at Tet Trung, but have not found them. They are small, paper and shaped like an animal and on a plastic chain hanging from a stick. But you can always have the children make paper lanterns. This site has a bunch of types of lanterns to make.

These Sky Lanterns would be beautiful to see in the sky at night. But I am hesitant to order for fear of doing it and lighting something on fire. Now if there was a big lake to fly them over, that would be ideal. These are like little hot air balloons. There was a part of the movie “Tangled” where there are hundreds of sky lanterns. Here is the video.

Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats has a pretty thorough chapter on the Moon Festival. I would use this book to guide any presentation.  But if you want to experience a big Chinatown Moon Festival, head up to Philadelphia.  They are having a festival on Saturday September 15, 2013.  The Chinatown in Philly is pretty big, nothing like the tiny Chinatown in Washington, DC.  And maybe they sell mooncake molds in Chinatown in Philly.

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