Harvesting New Traditions This Fall
What does “harvest festival” make you think of? In much of the U.S., it might bring to mind squishy pumpkin fields, bumpy hay rides, and crisp corn mazes.
But in China and Vietnam, harvest means mooncakes and lanterns. In the Jewish faith, it means dining outside, meaningful bouquets, and thankfulness.
Perhaps a little something from their fall celebrations might inspire a new tradition for you and your family.
Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival
The Mid-Autumn Festival is a beloved holiday throughout China and much of Vietnam. People celebrate the harvest and good fortune. It takes place on a full moon night between early September and October. The moon is the star of the show, which is why many people call it the Moon Festival or Harvest Moon Festival.
A Moon Festival wouldn’t be complete without little hockey puck-shaped mooncakes. Depending on where you are, mooncakes will vary in size, flavor, and how they’re decorated. Would you pick a meat-filled one? Nutty? Fruit filled?
The fable of the lady on the moon often winds its way into this lunar night. The story has many adaptations (as many folktales do), but one of the most common versions tells the story of a skilled archer who saved the world and received an immortality potion from the gods as a reward. Refusing to leave his love, he wouldn’t drink it. His love became so worried that the powerful elixir would fall into the wrong hands that she eventually took it herself, transporting her to the moon, where she now mourns alone.
Check out some moon books from the library and make up your own lunar tales. Maybe yours includes blasting the hero with some DIY exploding moon rocks.
Moon Festival streets sparkle with the glow of red and gold lanterns, a symbol of wealth, happiness, and good fortune in Chinese cultures. Legend has it that lanterns also help show the way to spirits in the afterlife.
Here’s a simple craft idea to make your own Chinese lanterns. Make a few to add to your fall decorations, or hang them around the block and invite your neighbors to find them all.
Sukkot is a joyful weeklong Jewish holiday following the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). It commemorates the period after the Jews escaped Egypt, when they wandered the desert for 40 years and lived in tents.
During this holiday week, families enjoy meals outside in sukkah tents festively decorated with foliage, artwork, and crafts.
Decorate your own special outdoor space with DIY garlands of leaves, branches, acorns, and other fall finds.
Families also gather the “Four Kinds” (arba minim) for a special ceremony. The Four Kinds are palm branches, willow branches, and myrtle woven together, paired with the fruit of a citrus tree. The role of the bouquet is to symbolize the different types of Jews coming together in unity at a difficult time, despite their differences.
Have each person in your family add something meaningful to a bouquet for your dinner table. Notice that everyone’s contribution is unique, but makes a beautiful whole.
Hakhnasat orekhim, or hospitality, is a key element of Sukkot. Jewish families often invite others over to share a meal in their tent and honor this time of harvest and change.
Invite friends and family over for a festive fall feast outside. Have everyone bring a favorite autumn dish to share.
Wishing you all a festive season filled with meaningful traditions—new and old.