Mid-Autumn Moon Festival Fascinates Downtown Norfolk
On an average afternoon in the park, it might be unusual to see groups of people dressed in colorful, ornate costumes resembling mythical beasts, dancing to the beat of a drum. That is, unless you’re watching a traditional Chinese performance called the lion dance that kicked off the 10th Annual Mid-Autumn Moon Festival in TowneBank Fountain Park on Saturday, Sept. 12.
Hosted by Norfolk Festevents, the festival drew in a steady crowd of families, friends, and onlookers to the exciting show. Vendors sold Chinese tokens and food on the waterside while spectators gathered on the lawn to watch the continuous stream of performances.
Entertainment ranged from fast-paced, spirited martial art demonstrations to more relaxed forms of tai chi, a graceful meditative exercise. Several organizations participated in this event including the Taoist Tai Chi Society.
The Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, the second largest Chinese holiday, is typically celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the Chinese calendar. This tradition evolved from Chinese farmers celebrating the end of the summer harvest.
Families would host a banquet to thank the moon gods for a plentiful season. It is sometimes compared to the American tradition of Thanksgiving. This year, the Mid-Autumn holiday will be on Sept. 27. On that night, the moon will be at its brightest and fullest.
The acrobatic performance was a big opener for the show as crowds focused on the intensity and agility of the dancers. In teams of two, dancers dressed in red and yellow metallic garb would hoist one another up and weave in and out of the crowds to interact with the audience. It’s believed in the Chinese culture that these creatures ward off bad energy for the upcoming season.
Residents also had a chance to sample Chinese delicacies. The most popular were moon cakes, which are pastries filled with fruits, egg and nuts, provided by Friends of the Pagoda and Oriental Garden Foundation. They are typically eaten during special Chinese holidays, like Chinese New Year, and symbolize good luck and prosperity for those who eat them.
The event’s music was provided by live singing and zither playing. The Chinese zither is a stringed instrument that is plucked and pulled using both hands to produce a distinct twang. Musicians played songs familiar to the public as well as cultural folk melodies.
Chinese fashion was showcased with a mother-daughter fashion show. The vibe was upbeat as women and their daughters dressed in traditional silk garments featuring detailed patterns – often symbols or flowers – catwalked the stage.
Although the festival didn’t end in moon gazing, it was filled with activities that were enjoyable for all.
If you’re interested in Chinese culture and want to learn more, the Confucius Institute at Old Dominion University is hosting a martial arts performance by the Tianjin University troupe at the University Theatre from 4 – 6 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 27. Tickets ($5) will be sold at the door.