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Moon festival leaves most expats baffled or amused

09-21-2010 11:09 BJT

BEIJING, Sept. 21 (Xinhuanet) -- Many foreigners don't feel connected to the Chinese holidays and the Mid-Autumn Festival is no exception. How many foreigners actually give each other moon cakes, anyway?

I think many foreigners look at some Chinese holidays like this with a mixture of curiosity, fascination, and humor, if they pay attention to it at all.

It would be good if laowai could better understand these holidays and feel more integrated into the society at large. I for one, would like to feel that way.

The meaning and origin of the holiday have various interpretations. Most stories involve a goddess, an archer and a rabbit. Another version says that the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) was overthrown by using small pieces of paper inside the moon cakes to organize a rebellion. This must have been the pre-modern equivalent of a fortune cookie.

In different places the holiday is celebrated differently. In the mainland there are gatherings with friends and family and the exchange of the ubiquitous moon cakes. In Taiwan the holiday had somehow evolved into the biggest outdoor barbeque of the year. This results in a huge amount of trash left over the next day, mostly plastic cups and wooden sticks.

It's easy enough to get a vague idea about the holiday from newspaper clippings and Wikipedia, but it's more difficult to take part in it and it's even harder to have that long cultural experience that comes from growing up in a place.

Foreigners usually don't have as many connections to the Chinese community. Even if they are married or have close ties here, there seems to be a little disconnect to the holidays. So the Mid-Autumn Festival seems far away, distant and removed.

A big part of the holiday revolves around moon cakes, which is how most foreigners most quickly come to know the Mid-Autumn Festival.

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