As fall quickly approaches, Stony Brook University is gearing up for the upcoming season in its dining halls.
The Mid-Autumn Festival, which took place on Sept. 10, was one of the first cultural events celebrated on campus. During this event mooncakes and harvest-based food were served at Jasmine, located at the Wang Center.
Jasmine was also decorated to commemorate this well-known festival. It was filled with gold and red decor that honored the moon and the food being offered to students. Many Jasmine goers were excited to see the abundance of mooncakes at the cashier. The staff was in constant competition with refilling the cakes as the sweet-toothed students couldn’t get enough of them — some even leaving with more than five in their hands!
Hosted by the the China Center and Confucius Institute at Stony Brook University, the Mid-Autumn Festival has been held for years at the Charles B. Wang Center. Open to faculty and students, the event is a commemoration of interactive cultural activities, performances, and activities like Chinese calligraphy, painting, clothing, tea ceremony, and paper cutting.
Ky Goo, a biology major at SBU, described it as a fun tradition. “It’s a time every year to celebrate with family,” Goo said. “We bake mooncakes and watch the moon at night after dinner … we also have a tradition where we hit things that are hanging on trees. Kind of like a pinata except there is nothing inside.”
In East Asia, the festival is always on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar, meaning that the festival date changes every year in the Gregorian calendar. However, even though the date changes, the festival itself is always around the time of the harvest moon and autumn equinox.
The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as The Mooncake Festival, is a celebratory event that is meant to show appreciation for the upcoming harvests and changing of the season. Many Asian countries like China, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines view it as the beginning of fall. In China, it is considered to be the second-most celebratory event after the Chinese New Year. It is also a time to give thanks and encourage the harvest-giving light to return again in the coming year.
The festival can be compared to the American Thanksgiving. Many families have large meals, worship the moon, light paper lanterns and eat mooncakes. In Chinese culture, the full moon is viewed as a symbol for family and family reunions. Many Chinese people believe it is during the festival when the moon is at its best and brightest. Mooncakes are typically enjoyed during this time because they were originally created as an offering to the moon, and are said to be originally made by China’s Moon goddess, Chang’e.
Historically, the Mid-Autumn Festival has been around for over 3,000 years. It began as a way to worship the moon for creating an abundant harvest. Over the years, the festival has been infused with more cultural meanings and helps gather families come together to celebrate and be grateful.
Many Asian cultures have their own local traditions. For instance in South Korea, at nighttime, people go outside to admire the full moon where they look for the moon rabbit, or “daltokki”; the creature is said to be visible on the lunar surface, busy making rice cakes. In Japan, some beloved “snacks include ‘tsukimi-dango,’ a round rice dumpling symbolizing health and happiness, and seasonal produce like chestnuts and pumpkin.”
Katrine Lovett, CulinArt Campus Dining’s social media manager, said that the event “is a way to celebrate the harvest, much the same way as a lot of cultures celebrate the coming of fall and harvest everything that has been growing through the year.”
While the Mid-Autumn Festival may have passed, the upcoming season of fall and change of weather can still be a peak time to celebrate friends, family and the moon.
Stony Brook uses food and food-based events to celebrate many different cultural events here on campus. In addition to the Mid-Autumn Festival, SBU Eats is hosting San Gennaro Feast on Sept. 15 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the patio at East Side Dining.