On Friday, October 1, Luther’s Asian Students and Allies Association (ASAA) hosted their annual Mid-Autumn Festival celebration on the Bentdahl Commons, before inclement weather moved the event to the steps of the Center for Faith and Life. Between the hours of 6:00 and 8:00 p.m, campus community members were invited to partake in mooncakes and boba tea while they learned more about the holiday, and its importance to Asian and Asian-American students at Luther.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is a cultural holiday celebrated in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Vietnam, with similar holidays recognized throughout East and Southeast Asia. The festival is one of the most significant holidays in Chinese culture in particular, as it marks the passage of summer to fall and coincides with annual harvests. Celebrations typically feature lanterns and mooncakes, a sweet-bean or lotus seed pastry. The festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese calendar, which this year fell on the Gregorian September 21. Due to some scheduling conflicts, ASAA held their celebration the weekend after, on the first day of October.
“I like doing this event early on in the year, it really establishes ASAA’s presence here on campus,” Secretary of ASAA Catherine Wedin (‘23) said. “ Last year on campus it was hard to do community events in person, so it felt good to do that again. I think a lot of people [enjoyed] the ability to share food and to just be with each other and learn, especially after the impacts of the ongoing pandemic.”
Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented ASAA from hosting the event, so they were determined to bring it back for the 2021 academic year. By hosting the event outdoors, as opposed to its traditional location in Farwell, the organization was once more able to serve complimentary mooncakes and boba tea, with the latter costing $5 and selling out in 15 minutes. In addition to their famous treats, the executive board wanted to expand the event this year to address perceived exclusivity and ignorance concerns.
“Our idea was to have as many people as possible, [especially those] who don’t identify or connect to Asian history,” President of ASAA Anita Tamang (‘22) said. “[In the past], it was more like consuming Asia, not really understanding [it]. People came to eat food, but you don’t really know what it is or why you are eating it. This year, we wanted to have that same festival vibe, but we also wanted the audience to have a context about why we are celebrating.”
The event featured multiple speakers who presented on the cultural and historical context of the celebration. Tamang shared the origins of the festival, while Wedin and other executive board members described how the holiday was celebrated by various cultures. Former faculty advisor and Associate Professor of Chinese Hongmei Yu brought homemade, organic mooncakes, and told those in attendance about the reason why observers eat mooncakes. All told, about 100 people came to the event.
“It was awesome to see such a great turnout for the Mid-Autumn Festival, despite the gloomy weather,” attendee Esther Choo (‘21) said. “ASAA really did a wonderful job giving the Luther community a taste of what this festival is all about. [The event] provided so much insight into what this festival means to communities in East and Southeast Asian countries.”
While ASAA is still planning its next public event, the organization holds weekly meetings at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays for those interested in getting involved.