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South Jordan Journal

Monte Vista students discover Chinese culture through Mid-Autumn Festival

Nov 07, 2023 03:07PM ● By Julie Slama

During Monte Vista’s Mid-Autumn Festival, students check out the night sky in a Salt Lake Astronomical Society telescope. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

Fourth-grader Madelyn Karren was anxious to check out all the stations at Monte Vista’s Mid-Autumn Festival before looking into the telescope to see the full moon.

“The Mid-Autumn Festival is a big festival in China and since we’re a part of the Chinese dual immersion here we wanted to do it here, too,” Madelyn said.

The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival or Mooncake Festival, is celebrated on the day the Chinese believe the moon is at its brightest and fullest size, coinciding with harvest in the middle of autumn. It’s a 3,000-year-old tradition.

Madelyn and her second-grade brother, Jack, already had gotten mooncakes at one of the stations. It’s a traditional pastry eaten during the festival. 

They were moving on to make paper lanterns, which, with the festival, symbolize lighting the way to prosperity and good fortune.

“I love that they get to learn about the Chinese culture as part of the dual immersion program,” Madelyn’s mother, Samantha Karren, said. “It’s so fun for them to get that flavor of the Chinese culture and experience their holidays. My daughter has really loved learning Chinese. She has picked up a lot already and my son is still learning, but it’s fun for them. I really like the benefits of them learning a language when they’re young and I love the idea of opening doors to travel and for business opportunities and to be able to connect with people.”

Sixth-grade teacher Szuying McFarland organized the “cultural and educational event where our school students and their family come together to enjoy an evening event.”

She said that students oversaw the different stations that also included learning about moon legends and other Chinese culture.

With a full moon that night, students were excited to look through the telescopes of the Salt Lake Astronomical Society to see both the moon and Saturn.

Fred C. Cox was one of a half-dozen members of the society who was setting up telescopes as families began arriving.

“When I was little, I went to the Hansen Planetarium and I learned about the Orion constellation and learned how to recognize it in the night sky,” he said. “About 20-30 years ago, I even had the opportunity of seeing it upside down when I was in Australia, because it’s a winter constellation. I think having this provides an opportunity for them to be interested in astronomy.”

Former Salt Lake Astronomical Society president Aleta Cox said the group usually holds star parties, often at the Salt Lake County libraries, and at the Stansbury Park Observatory Complex.

“We’ve been to a couple of schools this year; we used to do more schools, but we’re just coming back around now after COVID,” she said. “We hope to put a spark in these little scientists.” λ