Happy Mid Autumn Festival

October 04, 2017

I am an early riser, and, on the morning of September 18, looking from the City toward the East Bay, the spectacular astronomical phenomenon known as the star and crescent* was visible from my dining room window. Tonight if you look at the moon, it will be full. It’s the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, a day which in Chinese communities all over the world, people will celebrate the Mid Autumn Festival (中秋节 zhōng qíu jié). In the west we sometimes call this the Moon Festival. 

When I looked at the star and crescent just a little over two weeks ago I thought about my friends and family around the Bay, who were perhaps at that same moment, gazing east and feeling the same sense of awe and excitement as I was. Likewise, tonight people will look at the full moon and think of their loved ones who may be in far away places but can still stare at the same moon. It’s a perfect circle, a symbol of unity and togetherness. 

The Mid Autumn Festival is a harvest celebration, like Thanksgiving in North America, Sukkot in Israel, Incwala in Swaziland, Chuseok in Korea, or Tet Trung Thu in Vietnam. So people all over the world take this time of year to express gratitude for their good fortune. For us in San Francisco, we are pretty distant from harvesting crops, but we shouldn’t forget just how much we have to be thankful for.   

All over the world, whether harvesting rice or corn or beans, people have felt the need to develop their own rituals for showing gratitude. Likewise, star and crescent or full moon, we all experience a feeling of awe and connection when we look at the moon. 

So, grab a mooncake (round, like the moon), get together with your family, stare at the moon, and take comfort in the fact that your friends and loved ones are enjoying the same moon. We have much to be grateful for. 

Happy Mid Autumn Festival,         

* Star and crescent is a misnomer; the star above the crescent moon is actually the planet Venus. It is an important symbol historically, though not so much in Chinese culture. The symbol is on the flag of 12 countries (14 if you count the flags with more than one star), all predominantly Muslim.