It is 3:00 pm, a peaceful afternoon with bright sunshine. I am lying on a playground in Brookline. A red leaf falls on my hand and reminds me: the autumn has come.
This is the third autumn I have spent in the U.S. To some degree, this is also the third autumn I really spent in my life because in my hometown, Beijing, China, there is no fall for people to really enjoy.
Due to the monsoon-type climate in China, the autumn can only last up to three weeks. People go directly from wearing T-shirts and flip flops, to sweaters and boots. Even so, people in Beijing still treasure the two-week-period they have to enjoy the short-lived fall.
Compared to Beijing, the fall in Boston is much longer. It usually takes two months to wait for the color change of red leaves and their fallings. Wandering on streets, people can easily find trees with leaves in red, yellow, and green. Under the glass like sky of Boston, all the colors build a watercolor painting of the city. During this period, people prefer to do something seasonal, such as apple picking and hiking, to make autumn featured by harvest and its good weather.
Apple picking may be the one fits the season and weather best. Like the past years, most of my friends have been to apple picking this fall. Gala, red delicious, Fuji, or honeycrisp—people choose what they want and pick them off the apple trees. Harvest is the specific symbol of autumn, and these apples tell people what they have harvested from the nature in the past year.
Although the fall period in China is usually short, it still concentrates most important holidays in the whole year. Family gathering, hiking, full moon, and mooncakes are all the symbols of this season.
In traditional Chinese culture, the Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the most important times throughout a year for families to get together. Thus, in the middle of September, family members try to get together and have activities such as hiking and BBQ. The emphasis on family value in Chinese culture is also revealed through the Mid-Autumn.
In the one-week-holiday followed National Day, many Chinese people prefer to go traveling. Beijing, Shanghai, and other big cities in China or abroad are all the destinations Chinese tourists may select. The U.S. is usually a good choice as well. However, the close of National Parks this year by the shutdown of U.S. government made Chinese tourists who intended to come to America have to change their plans.
The Double Ninth Festival, the day for ancestral worship, was on October 13th this year. Activities designed for this festival include climbing mountains, drinking chrysanthemum wine, appreciating chrysanthemums, and wearing dogwoods; a plant used for expelling insects and disinfecting. Many Chinese people prefer to treat the Double Ninth Festival as the end of autumn, but the fall time in Beijing is usually shorter than this.
Pumpkin-Halloween vs. Mooncake-Mid Autumn
Halloween and Mid-Autumn are the fall festivals in West and East world. While Halloween is the world for ghosts, witches, and zombies, Mid-Autumn is the night for moon, myth, and peace. Even though I’ve been in the U.S. for three years, I still can’t totally adapt the atmosphere of Halloween, especially the zombies and monsters people imitate. Americans throw themselves into the fun and screams of that night. It’s indeed a charming night at all.
By the end of September, Americans begin buying pumpkins, planning costumes, and dressing their home like haunted houses. People carve the pumpkins into the shape they like and put them in gardens or front doors. Some girls choose to have hand-making princess or mermaid costumes by themselves. Stores start to use Halloween cookies as their gifts. All of these give the whole city a sign: Halloween is coming.
In China, Mid-Autumn is the most peaceful night during the year. Family members sit together under full moon and enjoy mooncakes. Usually people prefer mooncakes with red bean, lotus paste, and egg yolk fillings. When I was a little girl, I positively believed the myth grandma told me about Chang’e, the goddess of the moon, and the great palace she lives on the moon. Until today, Chang’e is still the person many kids wish to see most in the Mid-Autumn Festival.
In addition to the myth, mooncakes are also the necessity for the festival. People prefer to use mooncakes as gifts to friends, which make many Chinese families receive more mooncakes than expected. Then these mooncakes will be used as the breakfast for the next months after Mid-Autumn, which is why most Chinese kids don’t like them.
Mid-Autumn is a perfect time to make poems. Among all the ancient Chinese poems about Mid-Autumn, I want to share some sentences from the one I appreciate most: Shui Diao Ge Tou (Prelude to the Water Melody), wrote by Su Shi, in 1076.
“The moon is turning its beams toward the red chamber, descending its light through latticed window, and shining upon the sleepless. We should not bear any resentment.
Why at the time of partings, the moon often is so bright and full? People have their own sorrow, joy, parting, and reunion. The moon has its dimness, brightness, waning, and waxing. Since ancient times, life has never been perfect. May we all be blessed with longevity. Although a thousand miles apart, we can still share the beautiful moon together.” Translated by Shu