This last weekend was a weekend of special occasions. In China there were two special days and of course in my homeland there was a special day of remembrance.
What is Mid-Autumn Festival?
The first signal of the impending holiday was a knock at the door from my liaison from the foreign affairs office of the school. She had with her several brightly colored boxes and handed me one while wishing me a happy Mid-Autumn Festival on behalf of the university. I was pleasantly surprised and excited to find out what it was. It was a box of moon cakes.
Well, I had no clue what moon cakes are or why they celebrate this holiday so I quickly turned to the all-trusted source of the Internet finding Wikipedia had a nice article on both. I learned that the moon cake is the traditional treat for the Mid-Autumn Festival and is generally given between friends and family. There are many varieties and it has become a common practice for businesses to give them to clients. They’re kind of like a fruit cake at Christmas.
The holiday is an ancient holiday that dates back to when China still worshipped the gods of the sun and moon. There are a few legends about why they celebrate it but basically it’s to signal the end of the harvest and harvest moon. I found out that the holiday is always the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese calendar, which happened to be September 12 on the regular calendar this year.
The same day I got the moon cakes, I also got a call from someone named Sally who invited me to dinner with the other teachers in Hefei from China Horizons. It turns out she is the contact that China Horizons uses to help place teachers. She first worked with the director of CH about 10 years ago when he first came to China to teach with his wife. I was delighted to meet her and make another friend in China.
She invited us out for dinner on Saturday, which happened to be the official Teacher’s Day in China. This holiday was implemented in 1985 in order to instill more respect for teachers who had lost that respect during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) because they were intellectuals. It is a day when teachers all over China are recognized and given special treatment.
We had a lovely dinner in a nice “hotel” restaurant with our own private room. It was good company and great food. The first dish they brought out was this cool looking green and white soup that was artfully plated to be a yin and yang symbol. They called it tai chi soup. It was truly a banquet.
9/11 Ten Years Later
Even with these two celebratory holidays over the weekend, my mind kept reflecting on the more somber occasion that undoubtedly occupied the thoughts of my family, friends and fellow Americans. I too remembered where I had been 10 years ago when I heard the news, and I remember vividly the rest of that day during my senior year of high school.
My heart goes out to the thousands who were personally affected by the tragedy and my heart goes out to the thousands of American Muslims who have been scorned and scoffed at because of the shameless acts of terror carried out by someone espousing the same heritage.
I read many stories about the raised security in NYC and DC and the many memorials. I read the words of religious leaders who spoke about turning to and trusting in God, and I read about the consequences of our actions from many different sources both good and bad that have been realized over the last ten years.
I also thought about two years ago when I was in NYC and overlooking Ground Zero. I was there with a bunch of kids who couldn’t possibly remember that day since most were toddlers when it happened, a couple of them just newborns. At the time I thought about it and if they really understood the significance of what they were seeing that everything changed that day including travel, politics, international relationships and so much more.
The one thing that didn’t change is the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. God loves each of his children, always has and always will. He wants us to be happy and that’s why we have the gospel. That’s why there is a prophet. That’s why he sent his son.
Anyway, the next day was the Mid-Autumn Festival. We decided to make an adventure of it so Aaron, Melissa and I made a trek to a fanciful little Chinese town not far from Hefei that I read about on a blog, but more about that in its own post.