Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Moon Festival Adoptive Family Style: Year II

China's Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, is Thursday.

Am I the only adoptive parent who feels totally inept when it comes to important holidays from my child's birth culture?

Last year was our first time to celebrate the Moon Festival as a family. At the last minute, I ran out and bought a couple of mooncakes and made a quick dinner of frozen pot stickers. We played Chinese folk songs as we ate. I'm glad no Chinese person (other than Wenxin) could see my lame attempt at honoring his birth culture. Yes, it was pretty lame. But it was a start.

Sometimes it's important just to start.

And you know what?

It was fun.

This year in August Wenxin reminded me. "Mom, don't forget. The Moon Festival is coming up."

So yesterday we made a day of it. We drove downtown to an area with lots of Asian restaurants and shops, and we had lunch at my favorite Vietnamese place. We all chowed down on noodles and rice, and everyone tried bubble tea for the first time.

Those tapioca pearls kind of freaked everyone out. They'll be talking about it for days.

After lunch, we headed to an Asian supermarket to shop for mooncakes. Last year we had the ones with red bean filling. This year we bought a tin with four different flavors. We chose the kind that have a salty egg yolk in the middle. From what I understand, the egg yolk stands for the full moon. I just couldn't bring myself to do the cooked egg yolk in the middle of a cake thing last year, but this year I'm game. Why not? Mooncake is pretty much outside my comfort zone no matter what's inside. And Wenxin's pretty excited about those egg yolks.

Next, we dropped by a gift shop and bought paper lanterns for decorations. The Chinese ladies there even talked me into buying a huge paper lantern that floats up into the sky when lit. Wenxin is convinced it is destined to come crashing out of the sky and cause a fire.

"That one's a fire hazard, Mom. If we're going to light it, we need to go somewhere FAR FROM OUR HOUSE."

Last stop: the public library for a book about the Moon Festival.

Thursday night, provided there's no rain, we plan to set up our porch table in the backyard under the full moon. There will be candles and lanterns and our favorite Asian foods. 

Our family is a blending of two cultures, so it just seems right that we should incorporate some of the best things from both. For us, that means adding the Mid-Autumn Festival and Chinese New Year to our list of family celebrations.

This year's Moon Festival holds special meaning for us. It's the third anniversary of the night Wenxin came home and all my kids slept under the same roof for the first time. The night we became a family.

Do all internationally adopted kids want their new families to celebrate their birth cultures? Should you push birth culture when all your kid wants is just to fit into his adopted culture? Kayla addresses these questions today at No Hands But Ours in a post called Chinese, if you please.

works for me wednesday at we are that family


  1. Thanks for the tips! I have no idea what this holiday is about, but do know my adoptive to be daughters birthday fall on this holiday this year.

  2. You can make lanterns out of colored paper as well, it is pretty easy to do if you are looking for an activity to do. I am sure if you look it up you can find the directions especially where I know you do Pintrest.

  3. What, no howling at the moon this year?!? ;) Don't worry too much about trying to stay true to Wenxin's birth culture. As someone who is Chinese by ethnicity, I can tell you that you are already doing a great job of creating family traditions and happy memories for the kids. What is important to Wenxin is that the whole family is celebrating SOMETHING, anything, together! I like the way Westerners freak out at Asians using beans and corn as dessert fillings. My British and American friends love everything about Asian food until it comes to dessert. "Corn and beans are vegetables! I do NOT want them in my snow-cone." Ahahaha. We eat beans and corn in our dessert because they are cheap, nutritious and filling, and can be improvised for either sweet or savory dishes. As for Mid-Autumn Festival (not Moon Festival, dear heart!) activities, you can try and adapt these: (i) the Chinese often print out riddles on little tags and attach them to the lantern tassels. The kids/guests go up to the lanterns and read the tags by lantern-light and try to guess the answers to the riddles. You reveal the answers at the end of the evening. (ii) We used to carry our lanterns at the end of twigs or bamboo chopsticks and have a procession around the neighborhood. There are songs you sing to go with it, but it's all in Mandarin / Cantonese. (iii) Have a treasure hunt by lantern-light. It's not traditional but it's still fun. We used to hide numbered cards or clues all over the street and have our friends find them by lantern-light.

    1. We had so much fun this year. We lit candles in the paper lanterns and hung them on our screened in porch. We put lots of candles on the table and ate our meal out there. We listened to Chinese folk songs (a gift to Wenxin from our guide as we left China) and watched the full moon come up over the trees. Afterwards we let the kids have a "sleepover." That's what they call it when all the siblings camp out and sleep in one room. It was a really fun night.

    2. Oh, and I agree wholeheartedly about Asian desserts -- they get lost in translation on Westerners. I lived in Thailand for 7 years before I got married, and I never liked most dessert. The one exception - corn ice cream. Loved it!


  4. Hey, I'm Chinese-American (immigrated at age 4) and I'm coming out of lurking to say that I call it the moon festival as well as the Mid Autumn Festival or Harvest (/Moon) Festival. Especially when talking to non-Chinese people, I mean, we eat Moon Cakes and tell the story of Chang-O and her rabbit going to the moon, and there is a pretty bright moon usually, so I figure the moon is a central theme in the holiday. P.S., my go-to mooncake brand is Sheng Kee, it usually has a girl playing a string instrument on the front. I've seen it at almost every Chinese supermarket I've been to.

    Also, my other reason is that I highly recommend the picture book "Thanking the Moon" by Grace Lin (as well as her many other books and novels), for a relevant holiday story. It's probably for ages 4-6 ish so just find a library copy. Though, there is a explanation / for parents and older kids / on the last page. I love Grace Lin and other Asian American novels that I didn't have when I was growing up.

    1. While I may never love/crave mooncake, I'm starting to really love this holiday. It's so beautiful outside in the evening with the full moon, and so fun to have a nice family meal together. The lanterns and candles make it seem special. Thanks for the book suggestion. I find that quality picture books work well, even with older kids.

  5. Hi Dana! I just found your blog through Ni Hao Yall. I think it's awesome you're celebrating holidays from Wenxin's birth culture. I'm Chinese American and my mom/grandma are very traditional when it comes to celebrating the Moon festival and Chinese New Years. I celebrate with taro root cake, taro buns with savory filling, moon cakes, lotus root cake, and grass jelly (don't try it without adding sugar because it'll be bitter). The moon cakes with the red bean filling are my favorite ones! Haha :) They taste a lot better when they're cold.


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