Mooncakes and Yo-Yos

fkwang mooncakes making
Little Brother makes mooncakes the old fashioned way at Eastern Accents Bakery with Stephanie Lily Chang of APIA Vote. (Don’t forget to register to vote!)

We were going to have an moonlit picnic at the park — teriyaki chicken musubi, steamed little dragon buns, a thermos of hot jasmine tea, and of course, plenty of mooncakes. Thirteen-year-old Hao Hao had already written up a grocery list (which suspiciously includes “Pocky — 1,000,000 boxes”). We had four pink and green paper lanterns and candles from Vietnam, one for each of the kids. It was going to be a rare Saturday night with everyone together, just to sit and eat as a family and look at the beautiful full moon, the Harvest Moon, while composing a poem or two for the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival (basically, Chinese/Vietnamese/Korean Thanksgiving or Oktoberfest … but without the beer).

But then rain was forecast.

Luckily, Brian on the Revolution Chinese Yo-Yo Team mentioned the team would be performing at the University of Michigan, so we decided to go there instead. (Five-year-old Little Brother idolizes the “Older Brothers” on the Chinese Yo-Yo Team and is like their mascot.) The Taiwan Student Association, The Taiwanese American Student Association, and the Singapore Student Association were hosting a Mid-Autumn Moon Festival celebration.

In addition to the dazzling death-defying Chinese Yo-Yo tricks (with Little Brother dutifully fetching the runaway yo-yos), two young women play a song on the pipa and gu zheng about longing for home far away, and the Singaporean students also sing a sad song about missing distant loved ones. That is what the moon festival is about—family and home—and I love watching how people create community when they are far away from both.

It is great hearing the lilting flow of accents from Taiwan, Singapore, and America, and reassuring to hear so many young people switch seamlessly from fluent unaccented Mandarin to fluent unaccented English, everyone doting on Little Brother. Even though we do not know anyone here other than the yo-yo team, we feel warm and at home in this accidentally constructed community. Fourteen-year-old Mango even CLOSES HER LAPTOP to watch the audience-participation games, they are so engaging. At one point, the full moon bursts out from behind the clouds and fills the wall of windows fronting East Hall for a few moments, watching over us. Sigh.

The night before, I spoke at Mam Non Organization’s annual Moon Festival, organized by Linh Song in conjunction with the Ann Arbor Area Families with Children from China. After eating mooncakes handmade by the Mam Non GIFT Mentoring Program with help from Eastern Accents Bakery, everyone heads outside where Asian American volunteers from the University of Michigan light candles inside 200 colorful paper lanterns from Vietnam, and these families that have adopted children from Vietnam, Taiwan, Korea, and China carry glowing paper lanterns together as they walk with their children through a country field to enjoy the full moon’s beauty with their new friends from the Asian American community.

From a distance, all you can see are a serpentine of tiny lights pinpointing the darkness—a river of tiny lights connecting these children to their heritage as they create new traditions together with their family and friends.

This year, the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival will be on September 30, 2012. Mam Non GIFT mooncakes are available for purchase on

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang is a second-generation Chinese American from California who now divides her time between Michigan and the Big Island of Hawaii. She is a contributor for New America Media Ethnoblog,,, and She team-teaches Asian Pacific American History and the Law at the University of Michigan and University of Michigan Dearborn. She is a popular speaker on Asian Pacific American and multicultural issues. Check out her Web site at, her blogs at and, and she can be reached at

This article originally appeared in and is reprinted with permission of the author.


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