The Mid-Autumn Festival is a time to celebrate together with family and friends. The date of the celebration is based on the Chinese lunisolar calendar which combines the lunar and solar calendars.
The Chinese lunisolar calendar is guided by the moon phases and the position of the sun in the sky. It is through the Chinese lunisolar calendar that many holidays are celebrated — including the Mid-Autumn Festival and Lunar New Year.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the most celebrated holidays in China, Vietnam and other Asian countries. It falls on the 15th day of the 8th month in the Chinese lunisolar calendar, which is sometime in mid-September, when the moon is at its fullest.
At the library, staff who celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival have shared their traditions with our library community. Through a series of in-person and virtual events throughout the years, patrons have made lanterns, eaten mooncakes, and read books about the various mythical stories surrounding the moon.
“What I did in the past for Vietnamese storytime was buy the mooncakes and invite families to the large meeting room at Midland Library, we would decorate with lanterns and lights. After eating we made a lantern craft, and turned on the song for Mid-Autumn that we sing to light the way for the man on the moon,” says Trang Oliver, Vietnamese bilingual library assistant.
The famous legend of Cuội, the man on the moon, is well known throughout Vietnam. As Trang shares it, there is a man who found a miracle tree where a tiger cub had been killed. “When the tiger mom came to that tree, she chewed a leaf and fed it to the tiger cub, and the tiger woke up and lived. The man pulled that tree and brought it home to plant it in his yard. On the way home an old wise man told him this is a magical tree … so he needs to take care of it and only use clean water, never dirty water. The man loved this tree more than anything — even his wife and family. So the wife thought maybe without the tree you will pay more attention to me, and the wife poured dirty water on the tree. When she did this, the tree's roots shaked out of the ground and the man grabbed the tree and he flew up in the sky. That’s how he ended up on the moon.”
So every Mid-Autumn Festival, when the moon is full, the children light the path with lanterns, for the man on the moon, so that he can come back to the earth.
“My parents would tell me this story every year. We would light the lanterns and usually do it at night. It’s such a wonderful holiday,” says Trang.
In both China and Vietnam, this holiday focuses on time together as a family. However, the legends and myths surrounding the moon tend to change by country and region.
In China, Chang’e (嫦娥) is known as the Chinese goddess of the moon, and the story of how she got there is very different from that of the man on the moon.
Chang’e (嫦娥) was the wife of a brave man. Every day the man would go out and see 10 suns in the sky, and would shoot down nine of the suns, so there was only one. The gods in the heavens were so happy with him that they gave him a potion so that he could live forever.
“But there was a bad guy that knew about this potion, and tried to get it,” shares Sally Li, Chinese bilingual library assistant. “The wife says no no no, and so she swallows the potion so the bad guy won’t get it. Then she flies all the way to the moon … So every year the husband looks at the moon for his wife.”
Families share these traditional stories while celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival.
“This was a major holiday when we were in our own country. Here it is just another day so I think it is very nice that the library plans gatherings, so people can come and share …The library recognizes that this is a significant event for us and the library is trying. Although the library is not able to create the whole festival… But in the library space we can still celebrate the best way possible,” says Sally.
This year there are both in-person and online programs for the community to enjoy the Mid-Autumn Festival.
“People want this kind of event, they want to celebrate, it doesn't matter what we do but we celebrate and enjoy time together,” says Kenny Chen, Chinese bilingual library assistant.
Kenny is one of many library staff who plan events every year for the library community.
“Multnomah County is a huge county and the Chinese community is large. Some people live close to Gregory Heights Library, others by Holgate Library … so it might be hard for them to come to a specific location. There are also many organizations hosting the Mid-Autumn Festival every year with potlucks or other things all about friends and family getting together,” says Kenny.
This Mid-Autumn Festival celebrate with loved ones by attending an in-person or online event at the library. And take a look at the Celebrating Mid-Autumn Festival booklist to share in the storytelling aspect of the holiday.
To listen to Mid-Autumn stories and tales, watch the Lan Su Chinese Garden’s Mid-Autumn Storytime video, with Multnomah County Library staff member Sally Li.