Face painting. Mask making. Bowling. Golf. A moon cake-eating contest. Think a new carnival has arrived in town? Actually, it’s the Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Harvest Moon Festival.
Last month, Philadelphia hosted the 10th annual Mid-Autumn Festival in Chinatown. Presented by Asian American United, the event was created to mimic the Chinese celebration of the farmer’s harvest after exchange students living in Philly were feeling homesick. At the time, many of the students found comfort in gazing at the moon, in hopes that their loved ones would also be looking at the same moon.
The festival usually starts off with a colorful human-sized dragon puppet. This year was no different, as it danced its way down 10th Street. Many acts after the dragon included martial arts demonstrations, violin soloists, ballroom and ribbon dancers and other cultural performances.
While the adults and seniors were enjoying the show, getting their fortunes told and admiring the displayed calligraphy, children of all ages were on the streets getting involved with the many activities.
Free of charge, the children had their faces painted, made cardboard masks of their zodiac animal, learned to fold origami and experienced working as printmakers. The help and instruction the children received was given by high school students who were volunteering from all over the city.
Many volunteers said they enjoyed helping out at the festival.
“The festival gave me a chance to give back to the community,” Karen Ho, a 16-year-old Bodine High School student, said. “I really enjoy working with the younger kids.”
Even as the sun went down, the stage remained lit up with dancers and singers. Laughing children held paper lanterns of all shapes, sizes and colors.
The festival came to a quick end when it started raining; however, many said they did not allow it to ruin their evening. Guests left the festival with good memories and a belly full of moon cake.
“It [the festival] was fun and I got to see a lot of my friends that I have not seen in a while,” Cuong Do, a freshman at the Community College of Philadelphia, said. “I did not let the rain ruin the event. In fact, I like rain.”
The goal of the festival was to promote the culture and well being of Chinatown. The ancient purpose of the celebration was fulfilled – spending a good time with family and friends under the full moon and remembering those who could not be with us.
Anne Ha can be reached at Aha.firstname.lastname@example.org.