The Collegian
Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Students celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival in a simpler way

The Student Center for Equity and Inclusion hosted its second annual Mid-Autumn Festival celebration on Sept. 29. 

This was SCEI’s second time organizing the event, as it was previously coordinated by various student groups. Dani Dho Roberts, an associate director at SCEI who supports Asian, Pacific Islander, Desi and Arab students, said that historically, celebrations had been organized by the Asian American Student Union and the Chinese Student Scholar Association. 

The Mid-Autumn Festival is most commonly observed in East and Southeast Asia and is the second-most celebrated holiday in these regions behind Lunar New Year. 

Traditionally, celebrations consist of sitting under the moon with family and friends, feasting on mooncakes (baked pastries that can feature a variety of fillings), tea and other refreshments, Roberts said.

At the campus event, SCEI adhered to tradition by serving multiple varieties of mooncakes and tea. There were also blankets available for students to sit with friends on the Westhampton Green. The simplicity of the event was intentional, Roberts said, as last year’s event was “a big, big, big thing.” However, feedback from students inspired SCEI to go a different route in terms of execution this year. 

“The students were very adamant about making [the celebration] a bit simpler, because it’s supposed to be a simple holiday, one that you celebrate with your family,” Roberts said.

Roberts, who identifies as South Korean, said the festival is a celebration of community. 

“In South Korea, it’s equivalent to how Americans see Thanksgiving,” he said. “Historically, people would come together and have these large meals … to celebrate the harvest.” 

However, holiday customs vary across nations. In Vietnam, for example, the holiday is known as the Children’s Festival. Children will make lanterns and parade throughout the communities with them, Roberts said. 

For sophomore Tim Khoh, the Mid-Autumn Festival was a significant part of his life growing up in Singapore. His experience celebrating at home is somewhat similar to the SCEI’s event, albeit on a much larger scale, Khoh said. 

“We definitely do all the lanterns, the tea and the mooncakes,” he said. 

However, Khoh admitted that the mooncakes served at the event were different from the traditional treats that he is used to enjoying in Singapore, which are made of white lotus paste and filled with egg yolks.

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For junior Samantha Smithson, who is biracial, celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival has been different as a Chinese American. 

“For us, it was really just a matter of getting together with family and eating mooncakes, and enjoying spending time with each other,” Smithson said. “But I don’t know how accurate that is to the traditional Chinese experience.” 

Smithson also hopes that more students of different cultures will celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival in the future.

“If you’re coming into it with pure intentions of genuinely wanting to enjoy the experience, then I see no harm,” she said. 

SCEI is planning to host a number of events to celebrate cultural holidays throughout the school year, including Día de los Muertos, Diwali, Lunar New Year and Holi, Roberts said.

Contact lifestyle writer Jasmine Wilson at jasmine.wilson@richmond.edu. 

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