Moon festival under the stars

A colorful display of paper lanterns hang above students as they celebrate and appreciate the lunar holiday. The Moon Festival is a beloved Tech event. // Photos by Tyler Parker Student Publications

Red lanterns swayed in the chilly air, almost seeming to watch over the students beginning to conglomerate on Tech Green. The Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) had been working on the green since as early as 3 p.m. in preparation of the night to come. 

Numerous stalls were spaced around the green, creating a sort of pathway for interested students to follow in order to experience everything that Moon Festival had to offer, including but not limited to various food, games, prize stalls and student organization tables. 

As students gathered to check in to the event, the line began to stretch all the way around the green, demonstrating the huge turnout to Moon Fest, which surpassed many of the organization members’ expectations for the night. 

Even just at the time of check-in, 15 minutes before the event was due to start, 500 students had already registered for the event. 

“Last year, we served over 1,500 students, but this year we anticipated 1.5 times more. It’s amazing how many students actually came,” said third-year BMED Jimmy Nguyen, a VSA volunteer and club member.

Moon Festival, also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival, is a shared celebration between many East Asian cultures. Known as “Tsukimi” in Japan, “Chuseok” in Korea, and “Tết Trung Thu” in Vietnam, the festival has been celebrated for over 3,000 years and is aligned with the Chinese lunar calendar. 

Traditional celebrations include decoration with lanterns, games and food, most notably mooncakes, which are sweet or savory pastries that are eaten by families during the celebration, signifying unity and reunion. 

In Vietnam specifically, Moon Festival is also known as The Children’s Festival.

“Moon Fest is a traditional Vietnamese event based on the lunar calendar, and it’s just a great way to get together with family and friends. To emulate the traditions, we have lanterns strung up, and in a sense of community we’ve invited other organizations to come,” said Alicia Nguyen, VSA’s media director and fourth-year PSY major. 

As Tech is considered a home away from home for many students, the sense of family and reunion during Moon Fest is mirrored on campus as student organizations come together, almost in the fashion of a found family.

While VSA’s Moon Festival was scheduled to take place on Thursday, Oct. 13, the actual date of Moon Festival this year was on Saturday, Sept. 10. 

This meant that for many of the volunteers, this was their second time celebrating and preparing for Moon Festival. Preparations-wise, Moon Festival was planned for months in advance, with the assurance that all hands would be on deck. 

“The planning for Moon Fest was put into action months before the actual event. From food orders to decoration, everything had to be placed in time for the event. On the day of Moon Fest, lanterns were hung up around Tech Green, tables were set up and prizes were distributed. Each table was operated by VSA volunteers on a shift rotation. Moon Fest couldn’t have been possible without our event coordinator, our eboard [executive board] and all the volunteers involved in the event,” Jimmy Nguyen said.

The first stop after check-in was mainly the food tables. VSA laid out an extensive menu, with inclusivity for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. Staple foods of the night included Vietnamese coffee, crunchy pork and shrimp egg rolls, and of course, bánh mì. Wrapped snugly in paper, the bánh mì was soft and airy, and was the subject of excitement for the attendees. 

Volunteers happily handed out food to the guests, chatting a little with the attendees as they plated the food. Many of the volunteers at the event were VSA club members themselves, who eagerly shared their passion for Moon Fest and their excitement at the opportunity of being able to share their culture with others in the Tech community. 

“[Moon Fest] is such a good opportunity for everyone in this community to get together, especially on campus, and there’s so many people here, which is super exciting,” said Ashley Nguyen, second-year NEURO and VSA’s performance director.

Not only did Moon Fest serve to share Vietnamese culture with the Tech community, it also served as a form of connection and solidarity between many student organizations at Tech that also celebrate Moon Fest in different ways in their respective cultures. VSA invited many student organizations to table at the event, demonstrating the transcendence of divides and borders between different student organizations. 

As the organizations came together as one to volunteer, set up the event and table throughout the evening, the collaboration of different student organizations truly augmented the event and camaraderie between the many organizations present, which was inspiring for many students. 

“I’m really excited to see all the different cultures coming together and sharing their cultural experiences with everyone here,” said Helen Liu, third-year MSE and member of the Chinese Student Association (CSA) executive board. In addition to CSA, many other organizations were present at the event, including the Astronomy Club, Delta Phi Lambda Sorority (DPhiL), Filipino Student Association (FSA), Japan Student Association (JSA) and Taiwanese American Student

Association (TASA). The student organizations brought many familiar faces to the event for students of all walks of life and were welcoming and receptive to students willing to learn more about the organizations and their respective cultures. 

“It was great to see a lot of AAPI organizations at Tech be able to celebrate together because I feel like they’re not as mainstream to campus culture,” said Anika Banerjee, third-year BMED, who attended the event with her friends.

In addition to having student organizations present, VSA made sure to boost student engagement in the event by having a prize table and numerous games and activities set up for students to participate in, allowing students to mill about the green and meet others. As students congregated around tables to partake in activities such as Kendama tricks, they began introducing themselves to each other, meeting new people and familiarizing themselves with the various student organizations. At the end of the games, a prize table laid in wait, studded with little stuffed toys, stickers and candies. Students traded in tickets won by participation in games and with organizations for these prizes.

Other than the volunteers and the eager attendees, the stars of the night were the performers. With colored lights illuminating the scene, many different types of performers took the stage throughout the night, including dance groups DPhiL, Tekstyles, Seoulstice and VSA’s very own Modern Dance team. Other types of performances included the band Malibu Nights and CSA’s Chinese Yo-Yo performance team. The vast variety of performances demonstrated the diversity of the event and its attendees, showcasing many different styles of dance such as K-pop and hip-hop. The performances were definitely crowd-favorites.

As the night got colder, the spark of Moon Fest seemed to glow even brighter. Through Moon Fest, the sense of a profound cultural communion brought a warmth to the green. Above the sparkle of chatter and the dancing of the paper lanterns in the wind, the moon shone brightly over it all.