Mid-Autumn Festival brings light, community and mooncakes to Oakland

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A mixed nut moon cake from Ruby King Bakery Cafe in Oakland Chinatown. Credit: Sheena C./Yelp

Eastlake / Little Saigon Mid-Autumn Festival
Clinton Park (655 International Blvd), Oakland
Sept. 18, 2021, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Lincoln Summer Nights
Lincoln Park (261 11th Street), Oakland
Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. from September 16 to October 21.

The Mid-Autumn Festival traditionally falls on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar, which this year is on the Gregorian calendar on September 21. On this date, many families in East and Southeast Asia are celebrating by sharing moon cakes – the sweet, moon-round pastries – enjoying the lanterns and together admiring the beauty of what one is on. thinks to be the brightest moon of the year. It is a celebration of family and harvest, a cultural tradition that focuses on meeting loved ones.

This week, several Oakland-based community organizations are joining forces to re-launch a local celebration of the day. After a hiatus in 2020, and with careful consideration of health and safety issues underway, Clinton Park will host the Eastlake / Little Saigon Mid-Autumn Festival this year on Saturday, September 18 from noon to 5 p.m.

Spearheading the Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce this year, in partnership with non-profit support restaurant Bon Bon Eatz, the festival will feature a lantern procession, as well as games and a moon cake-making workshop for children.

During the 2019 Mid-Autumn Festival – the last time the event was held – patrons filled with sweet moon cakes from local vendors. Credit: Vietnamese Oakland Chamber of Commerce / Facebook

“The festival in our Vietnamese culture, known as Tet Trung Thu, is a lot like Halloween,” said Trinh Banh of Good Good Eatz, the organization that provides technical support and expertise small food businesses often owned by immigrants in Oakland areas like Eastlake / Little Saigon, Fruitvale and Chinatown.

Banh remembers celebrating as a child: “The children take their lanterns and go for a walk to buy treats. From what I remember when I was a kid it was [the tradition] about sharing and gifting to your loved ones, exchanging moon cakes with your loved ones.

This week also kicks off Lincoln Summer Nights, which will be held on September 16 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Lincoln Park (261 11th St. near Oakland Chinatown) with its own celebration of paper lanterns. Co-sponsored by Friends of Lincoln Park and the Oakland Chinatown Coalition, the event takes place every Thursday evening from September 16 to October 21.

Both celebrations will be marked by the display of nearly 2,000 hand-painted solar-powered lanterns by 1,500 students and 50 teachers from four schools in the Oakland Unified School District: Lincoln Elementary, Clinton Park Elementary, Oakland Tech High School and FADA (Fashion, Art, and Academy of Design).

Behind the lantern project, said Tommy Wong, founder of Civic Design Studios and co-founder of Good Good Eatz, hides a effort to strengthen the digital infrastructure of older companies in the zone. To this end, Collective of cut fruits, a group of artists and creatives who produced last year’s zine fundraising success, Save our Chinatowns, is teaming up with Good Good Eatz to help paint lanterns and will soon be releasing a moon cake buying guide.

Lanterns painted by 600 Franklin Elementary students for the 2021 Mid-Fall Festival in Clinton Park. Credit: Civic Design Studio / Instagram

Banh pointed out that this year’s festival, while somewhat low-key compared to celebrations of the past, is intended to boost the morale of community members and provide support to businesses serving the AAPI community.

“A lot of businesses are still struggling, and in some ways it’s even worse now,” Banh said. With deep ties to the neighborhood, Banh hopes the festival will help draw attention to restaurants and businesses in the area – places her mother has “been shopping since we’ve lived in this neighborhood for about 30 years.” years … places like Cam Huong, Sun Sang [Market], Sunshine Hop Fat [Market], Lee’s sandwiches.

At Lincoln Summer Nights, expect interactive games and arts and crafts activities for families, as well as resource sharing from local community groups. According to Tommy Wong, founder of Civic Design Studio, the event was from its inception intended to animate community interaction in the park, with the dual objective of improving public safety due to increased foot traffic and community presence.

Civic Design Studio works with schools and teachers while connecting them to neighborhoods as cross-sector partners to work on art and design projects that serve to strengthen communities. The students and teachers were excited about the lantern project, Wong said, and it’s a way for them to feel good about sharing something they are creating with their communities.

This year, Wong said, organizers have carefully planned activities to ensure attendees are as safe as possible from exposure to COVID-19. The painting and hanging of the lanterns has been purposefully separated to take place in small gatherings, and the Lantern Festival event will involve an open-air procession to keep attendees moving.

“This is all part of a great decentralized effort to celebrate our legacy,” Wong said. “This year’s event is to… build community – our form of security – by putting culture at the forefront to meet the needs of our community.



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