Mid-Autumn Pageant brings mild, neighborhood, and moon cake to Oakland

A mixed nut and moon cake from the Ruby King Bakery Cafe in Oakland Chinatown. Photo credit: Sheena C./Yelp

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

Lincoln summer nights
Lincoln Park (261 11th St.), Oakland
Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. from 16.09. until 21.10.

The mid-autumn festival traditionally falls on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar, which this year is September 21st in the Gregorian calendar. On this day, many East and Southeast Asian families celebrate by sharing moon cake – the sweet pastry, round like the moon – enjoying lanterns and marveling together at the beauty of what is supposedly the brightest moon of the year. It is a festival of family and harvest, a cultural tradition that focuses on the gathering of loved ones.

This week, several Oakland-based community organizations are joining forces to revive a local celebration of the day. After taking a break in 2020, and carefully weighing ongoing health and safety concerns, Clinton Park is hosting this year’s Eastlake / Little Saigon Mid-Autumn Festival on Saturday, September 18, from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

This year, the festival is led by the Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce in collaboration with the non-profit restaurant support organization Good Good Eatz and features a procession with lanterns, games and a moon cake workshop for children.

At the Mid-Autumn Festival 2019 – the last time the event took place – guests filled themselves with cute moonpies from local suppliers. Photo credit: Oakland Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce / Facebook

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

Banh remembers celebrating as a child: “The children take their lanterns and go around getting goodies. As far as I remember, as a kid it is [the tradition] about sharing and giving away your loved ones, exchanging moon cakes with loved ones. ”

This week also marks the start of the Lincoln Summer Nights, which will take place on September 16 from 5 to 8 p.m. in Lincoln Park (261 11th St. near Oakland Chinatown) with its own paper lantern celebration. The event is jointly sponsored by Friends of Lincoln Park and the Oakland Chinatown Coalition and takes place every Thursday evening from September 16 to October 21.

Almost 2,000 solar-powered lanterns will be presented as anchors for both celebrations, hand-painted 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 Design Academy ).

According to the founder of Civic Design Studios and co-founder of Good Good Eatz, Tommy Wong, the aim of the lantern project is to strengthen the digital infrastructure of older companies in the region. To that end, Cut Fruit Collective, a group of artists and creatives who produced the successful Save Our Chinatowns zine fundraiser last year, is partnering with Good Good Eatz to help paint the lantern, and will soon be a guide to buy of moon cake publish.

Lanterns painted by 600 Franklin elementary school students for the 2021 Mid-Autumn Festival in Clinton Park. Photo credit: Civic Design Studio / Instagram

Banh stressed that this year’s festival, while a little subdued compared to previous celebrations, is meant to lift the spirits of parishioners and support the AAPI joint ventures.

“A lot of companies are still struggling, and in some ways it’s worse now,” said Banh. Banh has close ties to the neighborhood and hopes the festival will help bring much-needed attention to the restaurants and shops in the area – places where her mother “has lived in this neighborhood for over 30 years … shopping … places like Cam Huong, Sun Sang [Market], Sun hop fat [Market], Lee’s sandwiches. ”

During Lincoln Summer Nights, expect interactive family games and handicraft activities, as well as resource sharing through local community groups. According to Tommy Wong, founder of Civic Design Studio, the event was designed from the start to enliven community interaction in the park, with the dual aim of improving public safety due to increased foot traffic and community presence.

Civic Design Studio works with schools and teachers, engaging them as a cross-industry partner in the neighborhood to work on art and design projects that serve to empower communities. Students and teachers loved the lantern project, Wong said, and it is a way for them to feel good about sharing something they create 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 lanterns has been deliberately divided into small gatherings, and the actual Lantern Festival will include an outdoor procession to keep the participants moving.

“It is all part of a great, decentralized effort to celebrate our heritage,” said Wong. “This year’s event is designed to … build a community – our form of security – with culture in the foreground to meet the needs of our community.”

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