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Celebrating Chinese Mid-Autumn Moon Festival

Families who are adoptiong from China celebrate the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival together under the full moon, in this heartwarming and informative story excerpted from The Journey to Mei. Together the children learn about Chinese traditions and stories, as they wait for the adoption of their siblings from China.

By Freddie Remza

"Welcome," Mom said to the Averys as they arrived at our house for the Mid-Autumn Festival.
"What a perfect evening!" Mrs. Avery said.
"Yes, we're lucky. The moon should be very full and large today. Let's go outside. Everyone is out there now."
Natalie and her sister, Lin, came out the back door looking for me. "Shelly, do you know what this festival is about?"
"Not really. All I know is we're having a barbecue under the moon." I looked over and saw my dad cooking pork on the grill. Everyone else pitched in and brought salads and other side dishes. It looked delicious.
After we finished our meal, Mrs. Presley announced, "We have some good news for you. Jeff and I completed adoption papers for another little girl from China. Emily will soon have a little sister."
Everyone was happy for them. I couldn't help but giggle to myself when I heard Mrs. Presley say the word, SOON. If there's something adoption isn't, it's soon.
"We're waiting for our home visit," Mr. Presley told us.
"That's so exciting. There's going to be two new babies added to our support family," Mrs. Hoffman pointed out.
"Have you noticed it's getting dark earlier now?" Mrs. Avery asked.
We looked up at the harvest moon that was now large and brilliant. Its presence seemed so close to Earth, I felt I could reach out and grab it.
"Before we tell you about the mid-autumn festival, we're going to serve fruit and moon cakes," said Mom.
"Moon cakes?" the group asked.
Everyone wanted to know what moon cakes were.
"They're flaky pastry stuffed with a filling," Mom said. "This festival is held in mid-autumn when the moon is large like it is tonight. The Chinese watch the moon while they drink wine, eat fruits, and moon cakes. Shelly, would you and Chelsea go and get them for us?"
We went into the kitchen looking for the cakes my mother made that afternoon.
"Here they are," I told Chelsea.
"They're so cute. What's inside?" Chelsea asked as she picked up one of the two trays.
"My mom told me that in China the cakes are sometimes stuffed with egg yolk, lotus seed paste, read bean paste, and coconut."
I could see by the look on Chelsea's face this was something she wasn't interested in trying.
"But my mom stuffed them with walnuts and dates."
"Now that sounds better," Chelsea said as she gave a sigh of relief.We brought the trays outside and placed them on the picnic table.
"What's this on the top of the cakes?" Jon asked.
Dad said, "Both of these are Chinese symbols. This one stands for harmony and peace. That one stands for a long life."
"Like my charm bracelet," I said holding my wrist over my head.
"That's right. You know, there's a beautiful story that goes along with all of this."
"Let's hear it," Mr. Boyd said as he put a moon cake on his plate.
"It seemed Hou Yi was a very mean ruler who won this potion that would allow him to live forever."
"What's a potion?" asked Kim.
"Oh, it's like a magical drink."
"How did he win it?" Lin wanted to know.
"Good question, Lin. By shooting nine suns out of the sky with his bow and arrow," Mom said.
"Is this pretend?" asked Kim.
"Yes, it's like a legend, Kim. You know, a story that's handed down from person to person," explained my dad.
"Just like you're telling us now," pointed out Emily.
"Right on! Anyways, getting back to the story, Hou Yi won this potion. His wife, Chang E, didn't want him to drink it. She feared if her husband did drink it, he would never die. That would mean the people's lives would be miserable forever."
"What did she do?" asked Natalie.
"She drank the potion . It made her very light, and she floated up into the moon. The Chinese like to think of the moon as Chang E's home."
"There's another version to this story," Mom added. "Often the Chinese children are told there's a fairy that lives in a large but cold crystal palace on the moon. This fairy has no one there with her but one jade rabbit."
"A jade rabbit?" asked Chelsea.
"Hey, at least it's not a dragon," I teased.
"No dragons in this story," laughed Mom. "Well, once in awhile a heavenly general would visit her, and he'd bring a very good wine. The fairy would drink the wine and then dance. They say this explains the shadows on the moon's surface."
"I think this festival also symbolizes the coming together of family,: Mr. Avery said.
"It's certainly bringing our support family together," said Mrs. Boyd.
Everyone looked up at the full moon that was lighting up the sky. We ate our moon cakes and listened to the songs of the insects. It didn't feel autumn, but we all knew it would be one of our last pleasant nights before it turned cold.

Freddie Remza is the author of The Journey to Mei, a children's novel about adopting a sister from China. She is a retired school teacher who have traveled extensively abroad, including a month's tour in China. This excerpt is presented with permission from the author.
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