Photo of mooncakes piled on a plate during 2019 Asian Mid-Autumn Festival

A different type of celebration: Center for International Affairs partners with student organizations for Asian Mid-Autumn Festival giveaway

Each year, Case Western Reserve University’s Asian Mid-Autumn Festival is met with much excitement as members of the community line up outside of Thwing Center for giveaways, games, traditional food—including the ever-popular mooncakes—and more. While restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic make such a scene impossible in 2020, the Center for International Affairs is committed to offering an alternative for students who celebrate the holiday.

This year, instead of an in-person event, students will be able to stop by the Center for International Affairs for giveaways, including free mooncakes and CWRU rabbit stress balls. The giveaway is today (Oct. 1) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., or until supplies last. Masks and social distancing measures will be required during pickup (for example, standing 6 ft. apart from anyone else picking up items).

Sometimes referred to as Tet Trung Thu, Tsukimi and Chuseok, the Asian Mid-Autumn is celebrated throughout much of Eastern Asia to mark a successful harvest of rice and wheat. Friends and families gather to tell stories, hang lanterns and enjoy treats like mooncakes. Rabbits and the moon are popular symbols of the holiday, which is often celebrated at night so individuals can appreciate the moon.

For many students at Case Western Reserve, the Asian Mid-Autumn Festival is a cherished tradition they are accustomed to celebrating with their families. The university’s celebration offers an opportunity to do that in their “home away from home.” The giveaway offers an alternative for students who are on campus and away from home.

“The Mid-Autumn Festival means reunion to me with family and friends,” said Molly Zou, a junior from Guangzhou studying applied math and a member of Chinese Students and Scholars Association. “Though we are not back to our home country, CWRU is like another family to us.”

To arrange the giveaway, the center worked with two student organizations: the Chinese Student Association and the Chinese Students and Scholars Association.

“Eating mooncake is the simplest way to express our feeling of missing home,” said Jerry Yang, a junior from Beijing studying biomedical engineering and a member of the Chinese Student Association.  

Mooncakes are at the center of one of Yang’s fondest festival memories, in what he calls the “mooncake fraud.” One year, his dad tricked him into eating his least favorite flavor, but it turns out all of the others were his favorite—but he had to taste them each one by one to be sure.

Yang hopes the mooncake giveaway will evoke feelings of home for students, many of whom may have been on campus and unable to visit their families since March.

“While restrictions necessary to prevent COVID-19 prevent us from celebrating with our usual large event that draws hundreds of guests, the Center for International Affairs thought it was important to provide students with some of the elements that make the event special, and give them something to look forward to,” said Kaitlyn Lionti, coordinator of special projects with the Center for International Affairs. “We are very grateful that the Chinese Student Association and the Chinese Students and Scholars Association volunteered to help us bring these traditions to their fellow students by helping us with the giveaway.”

The Center for International Affairs first offered the program in 2015 in partnership with the Office of Multicultural Affairs, First-Year Experience and Family Programs and the Office of the Provost. The Asian Mid-Autumn Festival is part of the Center’s cultural event series, which also features the Lunar New Year and Holi.

“We hope students will feel connected to CWRU and know how much we appreciate and value them as part of our campus community,” Lionti said. “We want them to truly feel at home at CWRU, and hope that this gesture will help in that effort.”

The center also has curated resources to learn more about the festival and videos for members of the community to learn how to make their own treats.