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Two millenniums of Chinese tradition come to life at Mid-Autumn Festivals

Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens
Attendees chat and eat in the Chinese Garden at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens during its annual Harvest Moon Celebration in 2014. The festival will be Sept. 27 this year.
(Martha Benedict / Huntington Library)

Every year in Southern California, families and friends mingle at celebrations of the Mid-Autumn Festival, a  Chinese national holiday that’s more than 2,000 years old. It pays homage to the moon and harvest and boasts its own sweet pastries named mooncakes.

It falls on the 15th day of the eighth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. It began Thursday, but in the Los Angeles area, festivities start running this weekend and continue through the end of September. Here are some of them.

Chinatown

5 to 11 p.m. Saturday

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The free 78th Mid-Autumn Moon Festival in L.A.’s Chinatown will include a stage dedicated to food demonstrations by Chinatown chefs, a craft beer garden, presentations of Chinese holistic beauty routines, a string of bands and traditional performers, including Shaolin monks doing martial arts and almost a dozen multicultural food trucks.

As many as 30,000 people attend, said Shirley Zhang,  representative for the Chinatown Business Improvement District.

“We’re trying to make this a cultural event, but we’re also trying to modernize it for today’s audience,” she said. “If you come at 5 p.m., there are a lot of families, kids, strollers and dogs. At around 9 or 10 p.m., there are more younger people who want to dance, drink and have fun.”

Mooncakes are a part of the celebration at Mid-Autumn Festivals around the world, including this one this week in Beijing.
Mooncakes are a part of the celebration at Mid-Autumn Festivals around the world, including this one this week in Beijing.
(Rolex Della Pena / EPA )

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Attendees can learn how to make mooncakes using a wooden mold. Mooncakes, mostly round and dense, have a variety of fillings, including red bean, mung bean and lotus seed paste, nuts and even cooked and preserved solid egg yolk.

“Cut open, it looks like a moon in the sky,” Zhang said. “Different regions of China have their own regional mooncakes. Where I’m from, in China, we put ham in ours. It’s like a bacon doughnut.”

New this year to the festival is a designated shared ride pick-up area. Zhang also suggested taking the Gold Line Metro to avoid traffic.

Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens

6:30-9 p.m. Sept. 27

Musicians perform in the Chinese Garden at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens during its annual Harvest Moon Celebration in 2014. This year’s celebration also will include traditional music.
Musicians perform in the Chinese Garden at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens during its annual Harvest Moon Celebration in 2014. This year's celebration also will include traditional music.
(Martha Benedict / Huntington Library )

The Huntington in San Marino will host its annual Harvest Moon Celebration in and around its sprawling Chinese Garden, lined with wide-roofed pavilions bordering a 1½-acre lake.

For the first time, the intimate event will be open to the public, instead of just high level Huntington members. Non-members can purchase general admission for $98 each.

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The ticket price includes free beer, wine, desserts and food samples from 30 local San Gabriel Valley and L.A. Chinese- and Asian-inspired restaurants, including popular Burmese restaurant Daw Yee Myanmar Café.

Beijing-based China National Opera and Dance Drama Theater will perform, among other traditional music ensembles. Revelers also will be able to circle through the Huntington’s new “Gardens, Art and Commerce in Chinese Woodblock Prints” exhibit, which opens Saturday.

“There will be a big giant helium balloon lit up like the moon, above the lake,” said Rebecca Shea, the Huntington’s senior advancement officer for strategic initiatives. “There’s not often events at night in the Chinese Garden, so it’s special to be there.”

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