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25th issue by TMU on December 2010

My first year and new life in Taiwan started with amazing experiences, like the Welcome and Farewell Dinner by TaiwanICDF, the beginning of one history out of my country, many expectations about: food, life style, new friends, knowing more about Taiwan Culture and experiences of the people here. Besides, learning a wonderful language which is so difficult, like writing and of course the 4 tones of pronounciation of Chinese Language, and doing the courses of my Master.
 
I was thinking that Taiwan is so different and strange in comparison with my country (Nicaragua) but it isn’tTaiwanese people are kind, friendly and help me all the time that I fall lost in my college or even in the streets, now I feel like really Taiwan Touch my Heart and here is My Second Home.

Haven stayed in Taiwan for over one year, this is my second time experience this great festival called ‘moon cake festival’. It is an experience that is worthy of penning down for the rest of the world to learn off. My first year experience was more enjoyable than that of this year because I was taken to a restaurant by the former project manager to have a great deal of experience on the festival as opposed to this year were I was just handed a pieces of moon cakes. Please read through to have a better understand of how moon cake festivals are celebrated in Taiwan. The Mid-Autumn Festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese lunar calendar, which usually falls around late September or early October. In 2010, the Mid-Autumn Festival falls on Wednesday, 22 September 2010. The traditional food of this festival is the moon cake, of which there are many different varieties across different countries.
The festival dates back over 3,000 years to moon worship in China’s Shang Dynasty. It was first called Zhongqiu Jie (literally “Mid-Autumn Festival”) in the Zhou Dynasty.

The Moon festival or Mid-autumn festival was my first experience of a Chinese feast in Taiwan, having arrived at this beautiful country just few weeks before the festival. Few days before the feast which falls on the 22nd September this year, everyone in town were busy talking about the significance of this great festival. Even our professors in class took time to explain the immense important of the feast and how symbolic it is to the Chinese people. Since we were not familiar with Chinese culture, I was eager to find out what this feast was all about. I was really touched by the manner in which everyone had something positive to say about this great Chinese tradition.  
 
The gift of a moon cake during this festival is a symbolic gesture and tradition. On the eve of the moon festival, we received gift of moon cakes from our ICDF project manager Rita.  She gave all students on ICDF scholarship four (4) pieces of delicious moon cakes. On that same day during our Agricultural Marketing class with Professor Cheng-Wei Chen, he also shared different recipes of moon cakes to the class. Dr Chen explained to us the importance of each of the cakes and their nutritional value. My school volunteer also gave me some appetizing moon cakes in observance on the festival.

I didn’t know what the Moon Festival was until I came to Taiwan. Everyone in school was asking me and other foreigners what we were supposed to do for the festival.
 
By those days, there were sets at the supermarkets with different kind of stuff for grilling; the meatballs, the sausages, pork, chicken, dressings; they even had oven and grill. Eat the moon cakes is also part of the tradition and it represents the round shape of the full moon. Most Chinese consume moon cakes given to them by relatives, friend, employers, or public relations people
Anyway, we didn’t really understand that Moon Festival or Mid–Autumn Festival is a celebration where Taiwanese families gather up. In fact, most of Chinese Festivals are still mostly about family.

When I first heard about Moon festival from my Agricultural Marketing Professor, it remained me about my childhood days in my village, where we used to stay up at night anytime when the moon out on the sky. I vividly recalled when our elder brothers told us that there is a beautiful woman in the moon and if you like her she will follow you any where you go. It seems it was the same woman our Professor was talking about, when he narrated to us the story behind the Moon festival.
I taught my classmates many things about Ramadan (Muslim period of fasting) and Islamic religion since the Moon festival happened at the time of Ramadan. They could not understand why I was no eating during the day. So I figure now it’s my turn to learn something about Moon festival, which according to my classmates is a Chinese holiday (or festival, as they call it).  It is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month in Chinese lunar calendar, when the moon is at its fullest and brightest period. The festival is to honor the moon, harvest and family. To celebrate, people will get together with family, gaze up at the moon, and eat moon cakes. While in my village people see a woman in the moon, Chinese people say that there is a woman and a rabbit in the moon.

Moon-cakes, pomelos, harvest time, and joyful family reunions – these are only a few words to describe the traditional mid-autumn celebration, also known as the Moon Festival. It is a special time of year when beauty, entertainment, happiness, and the values of Chinese culture are combined. In my experience at the Moon festival in Taiwan in September of 2010, I saw all that and much more.
 
Our event began at the Counselling Centre at our National Yang Ming University. The location was very easy to find and once were there, we were all greeted warmly by the local students, as well as the hosts. There was such great warmth to see our classmates there, and other familiar faces. Even more intriguing was the table filled with a wide variety of Chinese food. Since only a few people arrived to the event, I know there would be plenty left over food to go for a second round. To wash down such good food, we had a large barrel of refillable cold sweet black tea. The food, and the tea were so delicious, it almost made me want to cry.

When I first heard about the moon festival in 2007, I asked a Taiwanese classmate: what is so special about the moon? She said that the Chinese people believe the moon is brightest and roundest on this day than any other days in the year. She further went on to say the event is sometimes called the mid-autumn festival and Chinese families would come together, organize barbecue and eat the famous moon cake.
 
My interest was intrigued by her responses - especially when she mentioned about the moon cake- and then I wanted to know about the festivity. Guess what I did!  I quickly resorted to the famous google search to endeavour to know more about the festival which all my Taiwanese classmates were talking about and looking forward to the day. There, I learnt that the moon festival date back to the Tang Dynasty and that there are a lot of ancient and interesting legends associated with it.

Oh well, how I start writing this essay for the ICDF Newsletter, and explaining how awesome it has been arriving and settling myself in this new city and country. Let’s just state that, I cannot be so grateful of meeting the nicest, calmest, most patient and generous people during my 27 years of life. Since the first moment I arrived into Taiwan, and was welcomed at the Port of Immigration, I was like, what a nice feeling! By the way, not many countries do so.

My experience of the Moon festival in Taiwan made me appreciate the beauty of creation and I gathered wonderful memories which I will cherish forever. It also made me appreciate Taiwan’s culture which is different from mine. The first time I heard about the Moon Festival was in one of my classes where the professor mentioned that there would be no class on the 22nd of September 2010 as that day would be observed as a holiday in Taiwan to mark the new Moon Festival. Before this I had never heard of anything like Moon festival and coming from The Gambia where the moon was seen frequently, it did not signify anything much for me as a Christian. Although Muslims look for it at a particular time of the year to mark the beginning of the holy month of “Ramadan”, which they observe by fasting, penance and alms giving and at the end to mark the end of their fasting. Muslims also look for the moon in order to celebrate one of the important days in their calendar observed about three months after the fasting month. As a result the idea of moon festival was very strange to me and I looked forward to the day with eagerness as I had been longing for an opportunity to attend and observe events marking and celebrating Taiwan’s rich culture, a feel of which we were given at an orientation we had at the Taiwanese embassy in The Gambia before coming to Taiwan. My appetite for the Moon festival grew bigger as each day passed and as the day drew nearer I watched the movements of people and observed the environment with keen interest. My eagerness became greater when all the students in our dormitory were invited by our dormitory managers to attend a party marking the festival.