Unifying Cultures at the Mid-Autumn Festival

An infographic about Mid-Autumn Festival
September 29, 2023 marked Gonzaga's first ever Mid-Autumn Festival.

October 16, 2023
Anna Pham (‘23) and Tony Nguyen (‘25)

“It was surreal.”

“The moment I opened the door and saw people waiting to get inside, my words failed me,” said Kenny Nguyen, a member of the Vietnamese Student Association.

The Mid-Autumn Festival was far more than just a debut for the first collaboration between the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA,) the Chinese Student Union (CSU,) and the Japanese Club (JC;) it was the first time introducing the rich and harmonious diversity of our respective communities to the Gonzaga community.

“All in” was our thought when this idea was first proposed in April, when the Mid-Autumn Festival was still just a concept. We strived to create genuinely authentic materials that reflect the unique culture and heritage of those cultures, and many students transported decorative items back to the States during summer break, just in time for the event.

The Mid-Autumn Festival has long been a time to honor the harvest and the luminous full moon that shines down during this period – symbolizing unity and diverse traditions. While each country has its own way of celebrating the festival, there is also the fabric of history, mythology, and customs that are shared. On this special day, many residential areas will organize events for children, including games, contests, and performances, fostering a sense of community and ensuring that the younger generation remains connected to their cultural roots. One of the most iconic sights during the festival is children parading the streets with brightly lit lanterns hand in hand with their families.

For many of us who have been away from home for a couple of years, we wanted to create this event at Gonzaga as a way to cherish and keep our traditions alive halfway around the world from home.

Daisy Le, president of VSA, expressed her heartfelt aspiration for the club to present Asian culture in the friendliest and most inviting manner possible. "With the help of each and every member, our first event will surely be successful,” she said before the event. And I think our event lived up to her vision.

Over two hours, we welcomed more than 300 attendees who came to try our excellent food and unique traditional activities. We offered six delicious dishes – two from each club – along with many exciting games such as paper lantern crafting, Hanetsuki (a Japanese badminton game,) Chinese calligraphy, and more.

Activities at the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Left to right: Paper Lantern Crafting (VSA), Kendama (JC), Chinese Calligraphy (CSU).

The event was divided into three sections, allowing the attendees to access the booths easily and better understand our cultures. Although this festival was student-led, everything was meticulously planned and executed, ensuring a memorable experience. Some of our VSA members said they had never crafted a lantern before, but they had put in some extra effort to learn and guide our guests to bring out the most beautiful hand-made lanterns.

“This is the first time I have tried moon cake, and it is surprisingly delicious,” said Lizzy B., an event attendee.

“You know it cannot go wrong with spring roll and bubble milk tea. They are the best!” said Huu Bach Tran, a member of VSA.

“The yakitori hits me with the flavorful taste, and then the mochi ice cream,” said Henry Pham, a member of VSA.

“It was amazing to witness Mid-Autumn Festival 2023 from conceptualization to realization because there were several different collaborators that came together to make this possible, and it was sweet to see folks really enjoying the space, the offerings, and the community!” said Candace Williams from the Office of Mission and Ministry.

At its core, this event went beyond mere celebration; it was a testament to the power of collaboration and unity. Bringing together students from different cultural backgrounds, the event highlighted the idea that while we each have unique stories and traditions, there is a universal language in how we celebrate our roots.

A group of people standing and smiling in front of a photo booth.
Club members and the ISSS Team shared smiles and excitement before the Mid-Autumn event.

The collaboration between the Vietnamese Student Association, Chinese Student Union, and Japanese Club exemplified the potential for unity in our interconnected world. Their objective extended beyond organizing a mere event; it aimed to cultivate comprehension and admiration for the complex mosaic of East and Southeast Asian culture. As attendees left, they also carried the powerful message of unity in diversity. The Mid-autumn Festival was a successful collaboration between Gonzaga student organizations and university offices to introduce East and Southeast Asian culture to the Gonzaga community.

About the Authors

Anna Pham (’23) is a senior pursuing a degree in Communication Studies and is on track to complete her studies by this December. Tony Nguyen (’25) is currently a junior with a double major in Finance and Computer Science. Both are active members of the VSA, and want to extend our greatest appreciation to Zag Dining, Mission & Ministry, Center for Student Involvement, Gonzaga University Event Service Team, and International Student & Scholar Services!

Discover how VSA, JC, and CSU collaborate under the Unity Alliance for a unified cultural presence at Gonzaga.