Moon Festival
October 7th, 2009 by Kate

We have SUCH awesome holiday luck – this past week the Chinese celebrated (and I mean CELEBRATED) two  major holiday – the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, and the Mid-Autumn Festival or Moon Festival. 

60th Anniversary Celebration of the People's Republic

60th Anniversary Celebration of the People's Republic

The 60th Anniversary was very interesting – we were in Shanghai so we were treated to lots of fireworks, and lots and lots of Chinese flag banners that went up literally overnight.  It seemed in Shanghai to be like a souped-up 4th of July in the States – just with red starred flgs instead of the old stars-and-stripes.  But in Beijing – well that was another story.  With successful Olympic extravaganzas under their belt, they pulled out all the stops!  We considered trying to get up to Beijing for the parade, but there was just no way.  They had a six hour long parade with 60 floats and over 100,000 performers.  We only caught it on TV, but it was like the opening ceremonies with a bunch of major military equipment thrown in for good measure.  Boy can they march in unison! 

But the highlight of our holiday week here was Saturday night, which was the celebration of the Moon Festival!  It was AWESOME! 

We almost missed it.  We had been in Suzhou all day (and as you may have read in prior posts – we had quite a day!) and got back into Shanghai late.  From our taxi on the way to dinner we saw these strange floating, glowing balloons from off in the distance but we figured, hey, its China, there’s always something odd going on…  We were finishing up  dinner when the fireworks started.   They were still going off as we made our way back to our aparment which was about 20 minutes later.  Phoebe was about to come unglued – she wanted to go find the source of the fireworks SO bad.   We told our taxi driver to head towards the fireworks using a combination of exploding hand motions and explosion sounds and a few minutes later we were standing in the middle of the “People’s Park” with (I am not exaggerating) about 100,000 people! 

It was a very festive atmosphere- tons and tons of people, delicious smelling mystery food being cooked on the backs of bicycle-food-carts, Chinese military music in the background, massive fireworks going off non-stop (to Phoebe’s delight), kites with lights being flown all over, and these beautiful red lanterns floating off into the full moon-lit night sky! 

The lanterns were SO beautiful!  They were about three feet tall and about 2 feet in diameter.  They came flat, like a chinese lantern from the store, and you twisted it a bit and it became 3-dimensional.  It was made of really thin red paper (eventally, as the evening went on and the lantern vendors ran out of red, the other colors came out – but none were as pretty as the red) and had a very fine wooden structure.  It came with a little square of wax that contained something that, once lit, made it burn for about 15 minutes.  We watched group after group of people lit their lanterns and release them into the sky.  Some people wrote on their lanterns first.  They took about 4-5 people to launch, so often you’d see a small family (dad, mom, and their one child) stuggling with their lantern and then some total strangers coming to their aid.  It was really nice.  Even though there were lanterns going up all around, every time another would take flight, a cheer would go up in the crowd as it was released.

We bought three, one to release, and two to send home.  We had no lighter, but the first family we saw was happy to share their’s with us.  I was snapping photos and Jeff was lighting the wax so the girls needed help holding the lantern.  It was no problem finding help as we had attracted quite a crowd at this point.  Many many hands held our lantern steady as it filled up with hot air.  Of couse no one spoke English so it was hard for us to communicate when it was actually time for us to let it go – but with a few starts and stops, we finally gave flight to our pretty lantern!  A big cheer went up and the girls smiles were from ear to ear. 

I have to say, I had one of my “moments” right then and there.  This has happened a few times since we’ve been on the trip – I feel so overwhelmed with happiness that we are having these amazing experiences that I feel like I might just explode.

Sending up our lantern

Sending up our lantern

Our Moon Festival lantern (top center) floating into the sky with a bit of the Shanghai skyline in the background

Our Moon Festival lantern (top center) floating into the sky with a bit of the Shanghai skyline in the background

As a side note, Jeff and I decided that it would be a very bad idea to release these beautiul lantens in Arizona when we saw a few of them catch fire at about 500 feet in the air and come plummeting back to earth.  So we used the two other that we bought and then bought about three more since it was so much fun.  We wrote messages of peace to our Chinese friends on our lanterns and sent them off into the universe!

2 Responses  
Melisa Mace writes:
October 7th, 2009 at 10:14 pm

What a priceless experience, thanks for sharing it! After reading all your posts, I finally feel like I’ve been there!!! My time in Shanghai was very short, I had read so much the city and much to my disappointment my schedule changed and I was out of there without being able to explore…so thanks again for bringing the sights, smells and people back to life for me. It has always been a regret, and you truly helped me embrace it. What a beautiful picture you have painted Kate! I was celebrating the Harvest Moon here in Cali and to think you were all there with those magical lanterns is soooo cool!!!

Cricket Bourget writes:
October 17th, 2009 at 5:44 pm

Harmless celebratory lanterns?! Are you SURE? It looks frighteningly like….. the controversial, dreaded and mysterious…. “Phoenix lights!” Oh nooo, they followed you there!
What’s next, chemtrails? Look out, I bet there’s chemtrails……

Seriously, must have been inspiringly lovely to observe firsthand; great photo.

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