Much like Thanksgiving in the United States, the Mid-Autumn Festival in China and many other East Asian cultures celebrates the end of the autumn harvest. It is a time to give thanks for the past but to also wish for a bountiful future. It is a time of lighting lanterns that adorn every street and household in China, and also a time to eat the Mooncake pastry. Most importantly, it is a time to return home and share a meal with family and be in the company of loved-ones. Across all of China, millions of people board trains and airplanes to return to their ancestral homes to spend time with their parents, grandparents, siblings, and children. As Chinese culture places heavy value on familial relationships, this millennia-old celebration is one continued to be practiced by Asian families in every country around the world.
Growing up in Hong Kong, celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival with a hearty meal at home became our family tradition. My father would fly home from China and my grandparents would come over to our apartment so we could have a rare moment when our entire family was together. When I moved to the United States five years ago, I still found time to return to my brother’s apartment in New York and enjoy dinner there. Yet, now that he has graduated and both of my parents remain in China due to the ongoing pandemic in the United States, this was the first year that I would be celebrating the holiday without their company. How would I be able to continue a family tradition when all of my family are on the opposite side of the Earth?
Nevertheless, the essence of the Mid-Autumn Festival is very much the same as that of Thanksgiving: gathering with loved-ones to celebrate gratitude. If Thanksgiving could be Friendsgiving, why not a Mid-Autumn Festival spent with the companionship of friends? I decided to invite a few buddies over and make a home-cooked meal to replicate how I would celebrate the evening with family back home. I hopped over to H-Mart on Thursday afternoon and purchased some food and drinks for the meal, as well as a box of mooncakes. I spent the rest of the day washing dishes, tidying up the furniture, vacuuming cat hair off the floors, and fixing a small red lantern above the dining room table. If I’m going to have friends over, I thought, might as well make it a gathering worth remembering!
My good friends Dylan and Aaron did not know much about the holiday or its customs, but I told them not to worry; it’s just three friends having a conversation over a meal! I made some dumplings, shrimp, bok choy, and fried rice, and topped it off with a mooncake for dessert! We all thoroughly enjoyed spending time together and I was happy that I was able to share with them a slice of my life and culture. At the end of the evening, I was still able to get on a video call with my parents and spend some time with them. Whether I am close or far away from home in the future, I know that there will always be family or friends around with whom to spend time in moments of community and gathering.