Tradition shines at moon festival
TAMPA - For many who spent their childhoods in a different country, Sunday night was a chance to celebrate that distinction. Inside the University of South Florida's Marshall Student Center, about 300 people celebrated the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival. The festival, which is the second-most important in the Chinese culture, celebrates the fullest moon of the year on the Chinese calendar. It goes back at least 3,000 years. The Spring Festival is the most important celebration."It's a day when families get together and celebrate," said Jie Zhang, a doctoral candidate in the USF civil engineering department and one of the program's coordinators. He is a native of China's Hunan Province. "So it's very important." Lei Cheng, who works at the University's IT department, has been to his share of Mid-Autumn festivals. Prior to working in Tampa, he and his wife lived near Washington, D.C. and attended events there as well. Now that the couple have two sons — one 41/2 years old and the other 16 months old — the celebration is that much more important to pass on their culture. "This is important because this is a part of our traditions and culture," Cheng said. "This Mid-Autumn Festival has been a festival for thousands of years. It's part of our culture, so we wanted to have our kids, even though they were born in the U.S., to still know this festival." During the night's event, tables in the back of ballroom were filled with tea and moon cakes, a round pastry that is a traditional food item used during the festival. Faces in the crowd weren't just those of people of Chinese decent. A handful of performers also reflected that diversity. "Since we're here (in the United States), we're all spread out, and this is a good time for Chinese people, and even more I see Americans joining us, to celebrate this festival," Ling Massaro, a performer in the Clearwater Morning Star Dance Group said. Erika Troconis, a business major, has studied Mandarin and the Chinese culture for the past two years. She took to the stage Sunday to perform a one-person skit titled "Knucklehead Wants A Baby." "Being part of this is great," the USF senior said. "It gives me an opportunity to share what I've learned in my Chinese class with everyone. It's not just demonstrating my level, it's about just meeting people who have the same thoughts about Chinese." Troconis, dressed in an orange qipao dress, admitted she was nervous and humbled by participating in the event. "I've loved Chinese culture for so long, this is just an event for me to click with everyone even though I'm not Chinese," Troconis said. The event was co-sponsored by the USF Confucius Institute, Chinese-American Association of Tampa Bay, Chinese Student and Scholars Association, Chinese Culture and Language Club and INTO USF.
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