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Celebrating the Moon Festival in the UK

A mooncake, the traditional sweet cake eaten at the Moon Festival

By Sophie Partarrieu at Education UK

The Mid-Autumn Festival, or Moon Festival, is a huge and colourful celebration in China, Taiwan and Vietnam. It might not be quite as big in the UK, but there are certainly lots of events going on!

This weekend, London’s Chinatown (the Chinese neighbourhood in central London) will come alive with performances: Lion Dance, martial arts, Chinese traditional music, hip-hop dance and Hong Kong Canto-Pop are all on the agenda. Find out what’s on here.

And of course, no Moon Festival would be complete without mooncakes and lots of delicious food, so many of Chinatown’s great restaurants will be opening up food stalls and giving visitors a chance to taste cuisines from all over Asia.

But don’t worry if you’re not in London – many of the UK’s major cities will be hosting events. Birmingham is preparing a whole day of celebrations with Butterfly dance, Peacock dance, martial arts displays and Chinese Fan dance all taking centre stage in the city’s Arcadian Centre. Other cities with large Chinese communities like Liverpool, Manchester and Aberdeen will also have things to see.

Desserts at a buffet organised by the Wai Yin Society in Manchester (Photo ©Sophie Partarrieu)

We headed for Manchester to sneak a peek at the preparations…

Youth projects at the Moon Festival in Manchester

This year, the Manchester Wai Yin Society – one of the largest Chinese community centres in the UK – received a £30,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (an organisation which funds heritage and culture projects in the UK) to research and explore the history of the Moon Festival, and to help younger members to gain research, media and production skills as they created a DVD and a play about this important Chinese celebration.

Over the course of seven months, the students worked together to research the festival and interview the elders in their community, finding out all sorts of interesting stories along the way. They got together on September 4 to showcase their plays, documentaries and findings to the community – just in time for the Moon Festival – and also made some stunning, colourful lanterns!

Members of the community preparing materials for a lantern making workshop (Photo ©Sophie Partarrieu)

The students and organisers all said they learned something new, while projects like this help to promote the festival within the Chinese community in the UK and to the wider British public.

For the Moon Festival itself, they plan to have a dinner with their families, then go outside and look at the moon, either in their own gardens or while walking around Chinatown. Some of the older students might go out afterwards for karaoke with their friends.

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We talked to a few of the students and organisers involved in the project, to find out more about their experience:

Alfred Chung, Family Unit Leader, Wai Yin society

‘This project is for the young people to know about the Moon Festival – a lot of the young people are living in the modern world now, and a lot of the culture has been forgotten. It’s good for them to know what happens on this day and about its history.

‘The most important thing in this project was the cross-generational work. Most of them only chat with their own peer group or families, they don’t usually have the chance to talk to the older generation. It gives them experience about how to interact with people. As a whole, I want them to care about the community.

‘In Manchester we have a big population of Chinese people. A lot of people don’t have time for the community... they’re busy living, working, etc. It is very difficult for them to find out what is going on in the community and care about it. We need to make sure they know the community is here, they need to care about it, especially young people.’

Ziljun Zhen, Jin Tan and Aaron Young

‘We want more people to understand the Moon Festival… We try to tell stories about it and show them, like through drama.’

‘To celebrate, we are going to sit together and play around, and maybe let off fireworks!’

‘Actually I didn’t really know much about the Moon Festival (I moved to the UK when I was ten years old), but after this project I really understand the meaning of the festival.’

Jin Zheng and Tony Li 

‘Thanks to the project we’ve learnt lots of stories about the Moon Festival, from websites, television, but mostly from the elders in the community. Asking them how they celebrated when they were in China and things like that.’

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