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Are You Ready For Chinatown's August Moon Festival?

BOSTON — Once upon a time, the earth was ravaged by 10 suns. A brave and strong archer, named Hou Yi, shot down nine of the 10 suns, saving the world from destruction. One day, Wangmu, the queen of heaven came to Hou Yi and gave him a magical potion that would allow him to become immortal and live on the moon.  Hou Yi couldn’t bear to leave his beloved wife Chang E and so he asked her to hide it away. But hidden in the shadows, waiting for his opportunity to steal the potion was Peng Meng. When Peng Meng tried to rob Chang E of the elixir, she drank it and immediately flew to live forever on the moon.  Hou Yi honored his wife by offering her food and tribute when the moon was at its brightest and fullest.

The Lion Dance (Chris Devers)
The Lion Dance (Chris Devers)

This is a version of the legend about how the Chinese mid-autumn festival, which takes place Sunday in Chinatown, came to be. The festival is generally held on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month and is celebrated by the Chinese and other Asians who have a somewhat similar story about the moon.  The holiday is akin to Thanksgiving, when family and friends gather to celebrate and eat delicious dishes including treats like mooncakes. Mooncakes are round pastries that can be filled with a sweet bean or lotus paste and perfectly round yolks that are reminiscent of the moon, or they could also be filled with sweet paste and nuts.

Mooncakes. (Craig Letourneau)
Mooncakes. (Craig Letourneau)

Although typically observed in September or October, the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival manifests itself in a public celebration in Boston and is now known as the Boston Chinatown August Moon Festival. (Families still celebrate in the fall.)  About 44 years ago, the City offered summer funding for cultural events and so organizers from Chinatown decided to host the fair in August.

August Moon Festival dancers. (Chris Devers)
August Moon Festival dancers. (Chris Devers)

This year the festival, presented by the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association of New England and Chinatown Main Streets, will take place  Sunday, Aug. 11, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from the Chinatown Gate through Harrison Avenue and Beach Street. The day, will be filled with cultural performances including martial arts demonstrations, Chinese folk and lion dancing, and Chinese music and opera. Check out Gund Kwok Asian Women's Lion & Dragon Dance Troupe ) and Chinatown’s Kung Fu academy, Chiu Mo Kwoon , for some of the many visual treats.

Martial arts at August Moon festival. (Chris Devers)
Martial arts at August Moon festival. (Chris Devers)

Vendors will be selling everything from Chinese food and lucky bamboo plants to clothes in traditional Chinese style and, if past festivals are any indication, beautiful jade jewelry. Be prepared for boisterous drumming and firecrackers too as they chase away bad spirits.

This program aired on August 8, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

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