Christopher Simpson/The New York Times

Mooncakes, a traditional dish served during annual Mid-Autumn Festivals, were relished at Friday's celebration.

October 3, 2021

Ho Plaza Lights Up With Mid-Autumn Festival Celebrations

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Ho Plaza saw large crowds enjoying cuisine, games, dance and other festivities offered by several Asian-affinity groups at the Mid-Autumn Festival hosted by Cornell’s Chinese Students Association Friday night, after a two year hiatus. 

The festival, which takes place at the end of fall harvest, is an important tradition in many East Asian and Southeast Asian communities, such as mainland China, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Taiwan. Powered by the full moon, which is believed to be at its roundest and fullest at the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, the Festival is a time for gathering, giving thanks and praying, with similar observances in other parts of Asia, like the Japanese moon-viewing festival, o-tsukimi. 

The Cornell’s Asian-interest social, professional and cultural organizations that hosted the event set up booths for Lantern-making, Tinikling –– a traditional Philippine folk dance –– and other activities that people could participate in and collect stamps for. The stamps could be used towards free food, drinks and mooncakes, the consumption of which is a tradition at the festival, after which it is also called the Mooncake Festival. At the festival, most goers spent their last stamp choosing between the red bean and the white lotus mooncake. 

“The stamp card system is definitely for attendees to get food, but also to meet the organizations,” said Ava Tan ’23, one of the organizers. 

Tan said that the festival’s aim was to bring everyone together to celebrate the holiday and provide exposure to  the cultural organizations. 

“I’m excited about the festival returning, since I was a first-year when [I] last took part,” Tan said.

The space in front of The Cornell Store on Ho Plaza was transformed into a pavilion where groups shared their dances and music. Dance teams like LOKO, one of Cornell’s K-pop and hip-hop dance groups, and Cornell Lion Dance performed. Music groups such as Yamatai Taiko, Cornell’s Japanese taiko drummers, and Cornell Eastern Music Ensemble performed traditional music pieces, some with a contemporary spin. 

“Dance unites a lot of people in many cultures,” said Sofia Vaquerano ’22, the president of the Cornell Filipino Association, when asked about what CFA’s booth means to her. “[Tinikling] has been passed down in our culture for many generations.”

Vaquerano said that the CFA’s booth was intended to be interactive by offering festival-goers the chance to experience Tinikling.

“This is a chance for us to show just one aspect of our culture,” Vaquerano said, “[The] Philippines is many cultures, not just one, as it sometimes is glued together [to be].” 

Musical arts were not the only performances present at the festival. Cornell Wushu, a Chinese martial arts organization, also performed a routine. 

Other stalls drew in people for a game of cornhole, cups of bubble tea or a short experience in drumming. The Hong Kong Student Association’s station asked visitors to solve a riddle to earn stamps. 

For Bryan Ku ’23, the organization is not only a means to bring Hong Kong cultures’ awareness to campus, but also a “safe haven for all Hong Kong students at Cornell.” 

“It’s a home away from home for us,” Ku said. “Most of us are from Hong Kong; we grew up there and have our families there. This is a second home.”