Mooncakes, music and merriment

Now that the summer season has officially passed, it is time to embrace the imminent autumn months. When most people think of this transitional season, pumpkin picking outings and hearty Thanksgiving feasts are typically what come to mind.

For some, however, the fall season is a celebration of the moon.

Upon entering the Pan-Asian Room in the Brower Student Center on Thursday night, the combination of sights, sounds and smells set the tone for the festive experience ahead. Adding to the overall ambience, large paper mache Chinese dragons were perched in the corner and the room was dimly illuminated by colorful lanterns.

To kick off the evening, Jenny Liu, president of the Chinese Culture Club, gave a brief synopsis of the story behind the joyous Chinese holiday, the Moon Festival.

“In the past the Chinese were farmers, so they farmed year round, and at the end of the harvest, they would celebrate their growth with togetherness,” Liu said.

She explained how although it primarily began as a Chinese ritual, those of Korean, Filipino and many other Asian descents enjoy partaking in the crop-inspired commemoration. On account of its all-inclusive roots, Liu’s organization joined forces with the Japanese Club to present a collection of short acts, accompanied by plenty of edible and scrumptious sweets.

The performances opened with a skit that depicted the history of the Moon Festival. Both the president and vice president of the Japanese Club, juniors Erica Smith and Matthew Schlotfeldt, dressed in traditional Japanese warm-weather attire called yukatas as they acted out the legend.

During a brief intermission, Schlotfeldt revealed why the opening dramatic piece was his favorite part of the evening. “I really enjoy the story,” he said. “It’s always fascinating to me to hear about Asian people and events and how they got to be where they are today.”

With some spur of the moment changes in schedule, James Huynh, junior history major, and his guitar provided one of the more memorable sets of the night. He performed three songs, all without the aid of a pick.

“I assure you, this song is a lot easier with a pick,” Huynh said. Despite his guitar-tool deficit, Huynh was a clear crowd-pleaser.

From here, the scene mellowed down with a compilation of poetry readings. The poems were first read in their native language, followed by an English translation.

The remaining presentations included a slower-paced, soothing musical performance by sophomore accounting major Larry Joo, a string and vocal quartet, and two additional emblematic short skits.

The celebration was full of entertainment and cultural awareness, but when Smith was asked about her previous familiarity with the festival she said, “I didn’t know anything about it. Jenny is really the one who brought the event to campus.”

Growing up in a very traditional Chinese family, Liu celebrated all of the Chinese holidays. She noted how the festival was always and will forever be about “food and family” – which led to the explanation behind Mooncake mania.

While delectable treats such as mini fruit-flavored gummies, pudding marshmallows and Pocky chocolate sticks were all big hits at the smorgasbord table, the Mooncakes were most people’s favorite dessert.

This moon-shaped delicious baked good is a key ingredient to every Moon Festival. The authentic Chinese delicacy is filled with sesame seeds, ground lotus seeds and duck eggs; and although its description might not spark the same immediate appeal as a triple chocolate mousse pie, its taste is a whole different story.

Japanese Club member Jessica Chang is a personal advocate. “I’m most looking forward to the Mooncakes!” she said.

Smith also attested to the temptation of the delectable lunar treat.

Although the distinct reason for the origin of the cake is unclear, Liu said, “It’s such a traditional dessert. (It’s always been) associated with the Moon Festival.”

Despite everyone’s fascination with the mouthwatering indulgence, the best part of the night existed elsewhere for Liu.

“The poetry is my favorite,” she said. “There is a lot of meaning behind them. It’s very symbolic of what Chinese culture and the holiday is all about.”