For as long as humans have inhabited the earth (I assume), the moon has been a source of wonder and mystery. I imagine my ancestors staring up at the same moon, hundreds and even thousands of years ago in China.
This year, the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival falls on October 4, within the National holiday for the Chinese. It is a semi-sacred time for families to come together to share food, customs, and good company. Common customs during the festival include eating moon cakes, making and lighting lanterns, and telling legends and stories that tell of the moon and her beauty.
During our time in China this past year, my husband and I were introduced to this special celebration in a new way.
Growing up, my adoptive parents incorporated Chinese culture and tradition into our lives in many ways. We attended a Chinese language and culture school on the weekends, read and watched educational books and movies, and spent time with other Chinese adoptive families who were doing the same things.
In Chinese school, we celebrated the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival in the usual ways by eating moon cakes and sharing the legends and stories. So as I’m sure you can understand, last year in China, I was eagerly anticipating the festivities in the streets, the bright lights, loud noises, ornate costumes, and everything else that I had imagined there would be.
On the night of the festival, my husband and I ventured out into the streets and all was quiet. There were less people about than usual, less noise, fewer lights, and I was sorely disappointed. This can’t be the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival in China!
What I didn’t realize at the time was that holidays in China are often spent somewhat quietly with family, inside homes, cherishing time together. Certainly, there are some celebrations in the streets (mostly in the city), shopping to be done in preparation, and busyness associated with holidays.
But the focus of the holiday is family.
As it turned out, we were invited by some friends for a cook out underneath the moon and we celebrated the Mid-Autumn Moon festival in this way.
This year is different. I’m expecting our first child and she too will be Chinese. I want her to participate in all of the customs; eating moon cakes, listening to stories, and making lanterns. Most of all, I want her to remember that the focus was always on our family, being together.
Although she’s not yet born, I want to start now.
And this Mid-Autumn Moon festival is the perfect opportunity.
It just so happens that the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival falls on another important day for our family, the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, a man who also marveled at the moon. “Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars; in the heavens you have made them, precious and beautiful.”
My husband and I met at Franciscan University of Steubenville where the tradition of St. Francis is carried out and his life is honored for the ways in which he loved God. Our daughter will be named, in part, after St. Clare of Assisi, one of St. Francis’ contemporaries and closest friends in Christ.
Such a convenient coincidence that the celebrations of two very different cultures can be united in our funny little family! Each family has its own culture, unique in its own right.
Learning about Chinese culture and wanting to incorporate it into the lives of our children is ultimately about building family culture, the most important thing of all.
Molly Schmiesing was adopted from Wuhan, China when she was 9 months old by an American couple from Cleveland, Ohio. After living in Beijing with her husband Michael, they are now back in the States and expecting their first child. You can read more on her blog, Finding China.