The annual cultural celebration that unites Chinese families to share Thanksgiving-like delicacies and customs will be observed for the first time by the Gibsons and District Public Library this weekend.
The library’s inaugural Mid-Autumn Festival will be open to members of the public at no cost on Saturday, Sept. 10. The 3,000-year-old tradition is customarily observed at the time of year when the moon appears most large and vivid during the harvest season.
“We’re thrilled to be bringing the Asian Moon Festival to the Gibsons Library this year,” said Lise Kreps, the library’s outreach coordinator. “This is our star attraction this week — all ages, drop in, and always free!”
The Gibsons event was planned by Nancy Relova, a circulation assistant at the library. “Before the pandemic, we held the Chinese New Year celebration for three or four years in a row,” said Relova. “But once the pandemic happened, everything just stopped. This is the first time ever for the Mid-Autumn Festival, and it’s the second-largest festival after Chinese New Year in our culture.”
The tradition is also observed in countries across Asia including Vietnam, Korea, and Japan. Families reunite for plentiful meals that culminate in mooncakes, a baked delicacy filled with red bean or lotus seed paste.
“It symbolizes togetherness, prosperity and family unity,” said Relova. During her childhood in China, mooncakes would be served with tea after the main meal. Families head out of doors, into a courtyard or onto a balcony, where they sample the treats by moonlight.
According to Relova, the Mid-Autumn Festival is also an occasion to share traditional lunar mythology. Tales recount the ascent of the moon goddess to inhabit the pockmarked satellite. Relova’s father urged his children to study shadows on the moon in an attempt to identify the graceful figure of the goddess.
During the festival, paper lanterns are crafted to light the night sky in tribute to the moon. A display of lanterns fashioned by Relova’s family will be displayed during the library’s event, accompanied by an opportunity to sample fresh-baked mooncakes.
Several musical numbers on the guzheng, played by 10-year-old Meg who emigrated recently from China, will demonstrate the range of the instrument. Like a zither, the wooden guzheng is played by plucking strings.
Other young instrumentalists will perform on the violin and cello. Local resident Liu Yang will deliver a moon-inspired poem.
Relova herself will perform a traditional Chinese dance to a folksong composed during the Qing dynasty in the 1700s. “It’s called Jasmine Flower, and describes a custom popular in the southern Yangzi Delta region of China,” said Relova. “The custom there of exchanging jasmine flowers was a way of showing love between young people.”
The library’s Mid-Autumn Festival begins at 1 p.m. and welcomes guests on a drop-in basis. The aim, Relova said, is to foster a sense of connectedness between people of all backgrounds.
“Even though my parents are back in China still, when we look up, we look at the same full moon on that night,” she said. “We’re missing each other, we’re far apart, but in our heart we have the same room in the sky.”
More information about the Mid-Autumn Festival is available by browsing to gibsons.bc.libraries.coop.