Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Moon Festival Adoptive Family Style

If you are Chinese, you might want to skip this post. Because my family's unconventional Moon Festival celebration might make you cringe. For example:

There they are. Howling at the moon. Every last one of them.

I don't think Chinese people usually do that.

Wenxin's been our son for two years now, but this was the first year we celebrated the Moon Festival.

Because even though I write an adoption parenting blog, I've got a long way to go as an adoptive parent.

That first year, when the Moon Festival rolled around, we had just arrived home from China and were still dealing with jet lag. Wenxin was grieving and raging, and honestly, it was all we could do just to hold things together around here. No Moon Festival for us.

Last year, I intended to buy mooncakes -- I really did -- until fall hit with a vengeance. School. Soccer. Julia's birthday. Before I knew it the Moon Festival had come and gone, and I was on my way to becoming the worst adoptive mom ever.

Back in the summer, Wenxin brought it up.  He told me about the Moon Festival in China -- how it was really fun.  He wondered if our family could celebrate it this year.

So this past weekend, while I was running from soccer game to soccer game and packing for New York in between, I googled "when is the Moon Festival in 2012?" It looked to me like the Moon Festival ran a whole week, so I figured if all else failed, we'd hunt down some mooncakes when we got to New York and celebrate up there. I also posted a Facebook message to ask my friends where they buy them and discuss  favorite mooncake fillings (more on that later).

6:30 pm Sunday night, I checked Facebook and saw this message from my friend, Jerry. Jerry's wife, Evelyn, is Chinese.

"It's tonight, you know. Tonight's the night you give the mooncakes."


I called an Asian food market downtown.

"Are you still open?"

"Yes, we're open til 8."

"Do you have mooncakes?"

"No, all gone."

Panic.  Panic.  Panic.

Googling Asian markets in town.

I found one that looked to be close to my house and called. Now it was 6:45.

"Are you open?"

"Yes, we are open until 7."

"Do you have mooncakes?"

"Yes, we have a few."

I grabbed my purse and ran to the car. Mike looked up from pushing the lawn mower just in time to see me screech off. A woman on a mission. In search of mooncakes.

I pulled into the Asian market parking lot at 7:02. I could see the owner reaching to unplug the "OPEN" sign.

"No, no, no, no!"

I ran to the door and pushed it open before she could lock it.

"Mooncakes," I gasped and staggered inside.

Selection was limited. The few that were left had red bean filling. Mooncakes, at least the ones I bought, are small -- about the size of moon pies, for my southern friends. Many of them have a whole egg yolk cooked inside -- like a full moon.  I opted for the no egg version. (I know, I'm a wimp.) There was a decorative tin with 4 mooncakes for $21.  I decided to buy a single mooncake ($5.99) for Wenxin, and then another single for the rest of us to share.  Something told me that would be enough.

"What do families in China do on this night -- besides give mooncakes?" I asked the owner.

"Usually we share a huge meal, like Thanksgiving, " she said.


Just great.

I didn't even have a plan for dinner.

"And you have to wait until the sun goes down."

Finally, a part of this whole moon thing that I could get right.  It was already getting dark outside.

Remembering there was a little jasmine rice left from lunch, I raced to Wal-Mart and bought a bag of frozen pot stickers.  No, they're not Wenxin's favorites. We'd never even tried them before. But I was winging this Moon Festival thing, and it was the best I could come up with on short notice.

So while Chinese families around town were feasting on big meals, our celebration was more like "Moon Festival in Time of Famine."

No, that's not the appetizer.  It's the whole meal.

But it didn't matter.  When Wenxin saw what I was doing, he got so excited.

"Should I put on the Chinese music, Mom?"  He ran to find the CD of Chinese folk songs he brought from China.

We did our best to eat pot stickers and jasmine rice with chopsticks.  I even broke out some fortune cookies.

And then there were the mooncakes. Even though I lived in Asia for seven years back when I was single, this was the first time I'd ever had mooncake. I've heard them compared to fruitcake in America.
When I opened the cellophane wrapper , a little package of silica  fell out. You know, the little packets that come in your box of new sneakers that say, "Do Not Eat."  I kid you not.  I'm sure there's a perfectly good reason for that; I'm just not used to finding those in my food.

When I sliced the mooncake that Nathan, Julia, and Katherine were going to share, everyone yelled, "Chocolate!"

"No," I corrected them, "It's red bean."  Yummm.

The looks on their faces as they chewed and swallowed confirmed one of my theories about traveling in Asia. "Eat, eat, eat, but stay away from the desserts." For most Americans, smashed red beans just don't belong in cake -- of any kind.  Oh well, Wenxin can't stomach cheese pizza.  But he seemed to genuinely enjoy his mooncake.

Moon Festival adoptive family style. For us, it was a good start, and it was fun. Our family made a memory together, and from what I understand, time with family is what the Chinese Moon Festival is all about.

Next year, I'll try to give the "feast" part a little upgrade.

Little by Little


  1. YES! That's what it's about....celebrating where they are from, embracing the culture. Even if it's hurried and incomplete, he SAW. He knows that you don't want him to forget where he's been, who he was and who he is. I think that is an essential component of being an adoptive parent. Way to go, Mom! :)

  2. You.Are.A.Great.Mom!!! How fun is that story!

  3. This is so sweet Dana! I loved this story. I remember seeing all the Chinese shops in downtown Bangkok selling these. I'm pretty sure I was gifted one of these by a student before. I agree about staying away from the desserts!

  4. Wonderful story! Making memories is the best part. So glad you shared.

  5. What a great story! I better do more research too, so when we bring home our new addition I can have an inkling what to do for this festival.

  6. I had an overflowing of mooncakes that weekend... next year, I'll give you a heads up. We had mixed fruits, green bean, red bean, lotus seed, lotus seed with egg yolks (my personal favorite). I was only lacking the mixed nuts which is also good. A new favorite of Chinese high schoolers isn't imported here -- it has ice cream in it!

    FYI, the silica is in a lot of Asian food products as well as vitamins and supplement bottles. They absorb moisture and keep the food from getting spoiled or too moist in humid climates. Most mooncakes are imported from overseas. My favorite ones are from Hong Kong.

    Also, check out Asia Trend magazine for local cultural events. http://www.asiatrendmagazine.com/

    Mark your calendars for next year -- Mid-Autumn Festival is on Thursday, September 19, 2013. Get your lanterns ready. Hot tea and mooncakes, anyone?

    However, the next big event is the Lunar (Chinese) New Year, the date is Feb 10. It is a two-week celebration so maybe we can celebrate together. There will be a big dragon parade along the Mills 50 area. I'll send you more details later.

    In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. Thanks Evelyn. Now that we started in a little way (it was pitiful, really, but he appreciated the effort) we hope to improve next year. I'll go ahead and mark my calendar for next year - the only way I remember to do anything!