Celebrating an Old Tradition in a New Way

The Mid-Autumn Festival, celebrated in many East Asian cultures, is a time of reunion and of families gathering together. This year, despite social distance, the Parents of Asian Students made sure it still was.

On October 3, the group hosted over 100 people from 50 families in a virtual class with Chef Lisa Chang of the acclaimed Mama Chang restaurant in Fairfax City, Virginia. Chang shared her recipe for moon cakes—a food with a round shape that symbolizes the moon, reunification, and togetherness—and taught the families how to make them over Zoom.

“It’s a new way to celebrate an old culture,” said Zhe Tang, the co-clerk of the All-School Parents of Asian Students. “When the Mid-Autumn Festival was approaching, PAS thought it was the perfect time to host a moon-cake-making class and embrace the culture of the festival.”

Though of Chinese origin, variations of the cakes appear throughout East Asia. There are many types of moon cakes; they’re often filled with red bean paste, eggs, or meat. Chang showcased two recipes: a Suzhou-style meat moon cake and a Cantonese red bean moon cake. She has used her pastry recipe for over 40 years—which means, Tang said, she’s really good at it.

“I’ve tried to make moon cakes before, and it took me four or five hours just to make one kind,” Tang said. “I was so surprised that we have so many talented chefs who could follow Chef Lisa and make two types of moon cakes within two hours.”

Of course, the class wasn’t about speed. Instead, it was yet another way in which members of the Sidwell Friends community could gather together in celebration. Even though the gathering took place virtually, the essence of the Mid-Autumn Celebration remained the same: The bright fall moon hung in the sky, and families and friends were still together in spirit.

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