Although there was no moon to be seen through the rain, over three hundred student residents from many different cultural backgrounds gathered on 21 September 2010 to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival. Some came to celebrate a tradition deeply familiar to them, while others partook in the hope of learning more about a cultural facet they had never experienced before.

“I had never heard of the Mid-Autumn Festival before I came to Hong Kong. It’s not something we celebrate in Canada”, Tyler Atkinson, an exchange student living in Hall 2, explained. “I’m here tonight to learn more about it.” The same sentiment was echoed by Caitlin Evans, an exchange student from the UK living in Hall 9. “I don’t really know much about this [festival]. I know that it’s about the moon and about bringing people together, but that’s all. I came to learn more of the details.”

While it may not surprise you that western countries, such as Canada and the UK, do not celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, it may be a surprise to hear that it is a large part of the culture of countries other than China and Hong Kong. For example, in South Korea, the Mid-Autumn Festival, known there as Chuseok, is one of the biggest national holidays. It is also widely celebrated in Japan, where it goes by the name of Tsukimi, and in Vietnam, where it is called Tet Trung Thu and celebrates the end of the harvest season. Although it is not an official holiday in Burma, “it is so widely celebrated by Chinese immigrants that many of the non-Chinese Burmese celebrate with them”, explained Mun Htoi, an international student from Hall 5.

Of course, we must not take for granted the deep-rooted importance of this festival to the Chinese. “For me, this holiday is about the memories, all the times I lit little red candles in my family’s empty mooncake boxes, every time my family reunited and had dinner together,” mused Raver Wong, a local student from Hall 6. “I think this celebration is great for Chinese students who can’t go home to reunite with their family and for [foreign students] to learn about our holiday,” said Jiang Ziwen, a student from mainland China living in Hall 2.

“I wanted to hold this Joint-Hall Mid-Autumn Festival Celebration because I wanted to encourage students whose cultures don’t celebrate this festival to learn more about Chinese culture,” said Elsie Chung, a local student from Hall 1 who was one of the Event Coordinators organising the event. “I feel very happy. There are more people here now than I would have expected even if the weather had been perfect. It’s wonderful.”

The full moon was missing on the event night, but we did not miss the chance to unite residents from many different cultures together to celebrate the Mid-autumn Festival and learn more from each other.