A mid-autumn moon rises over Dana Hall

Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, is a Chinese holiday of family unions and thanksgivings. It takes place on the fifth day in August in the Asian lunar calendar, which fell on September 19 this year. On that night, Dana Hall house faculty hosted a celebration of the full moon in the Johnston courtyard. With electric candles placed around the pond, celebrants ate from the display of moon cakes, fruits, and cakes. Many boarders and teachers, both from the Chinese culture and not, joined in the celebration.

“Although I have moon cakes on my own, the moon cakes displayed today and all the people gathered here made me feel like home. I really enjoy the five-kernel moon cakes! They have been my favorite flavors since childhood,” said Luceo Wang. Katie Lemay expressed her excitement as well: “This is the first time that I’ve ever been to a Chinese festival celebration. It’s so cool! All the people thought it was amazing! I just learned more about the tradition.”

The Mid-Autumn Festival is a tradition that the Chinese have been celebrating ever since the Shang Dynasty, about three thousand years ago. The festival started with a legend: In the ancient time, there was a famous hero called Hou Yi whose beloved wife was Chang’e. When ten suns appeared in the sky together, frying the lands and drying up the water, Hou Yi shot down nine suns and left one to provide warmth and light for people, plants and animals. His epic deed was appreciated by the gods, one of whom gave Yi an elixir that would grant him immortality. But since Yi loved Chang’e so much that she was already a part of him, he could not endure living alone as an incomplete soul after she died. So he decided to seal up the elixir, live with his wife, and end their lives together.

But one day, the fifth day in August on the lunar calendar, Feng Meng, one of his subordinates, learned of the elixir and decided to steal it. When Hou Yi went hunting, Feng Meng broke into his home and forced Chang’e to give him the elixir. During the struggle, Chang’e swallowed the elixir herself. Her body started to rise up into the sky. She did not want to leave her husband, but there was nothing she could do. Sorrowfully, she chose to live on the moon since Yi could see it from the ground. In the evening, Hou Yi came back home and was desperate when he found he had lost his wife. He displayed many fruits and cakes that Chang’e liked in the courtyard to sacrifice to her. People soon learned about his sorrow and started sacrificing to Chang’e with Hou Yi to comfort the couple. Thus was born the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Although many members of the Dana community do not see their families very often, we all share the same moon. Under the warm yellow moon, for Hou Yi and Chang’e, for the international students and for whomever had someone to yearn for, the community celebrated together.

Photo: Paper lanterns added to the festive environment at Dana Hall’s Mid-Autumn Festival. Photo credit: Helen Jiang.

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