As temperatures turn colder, people in both China and America prepare for holidays celebrating reunion and family. In China (and other countries throughout Asia), individuals make the journey to their hometowns to eat mooncakes, play with lanterns and join their families around a reunion dinner during the Mid-Autumn Festival [中秋节 Zhōngqiūjié]. First celebrated over 3,000 years ago, this festival often integrates appreciation of the full moon as a symbol of family unity, whether members are together or apart. Families throughout China will gather together on October 1 to celebrate; this year’s Mid-Autumn Festival also shares the date with China’s National Day, ensuring that this October 1 will be a celebration to remember.
In the United States, similar traditions and values are celebrated during the Thanksgiving holiday. Nationally commemorated on the fourth Thursday of November, Thanksgiving Day originated as a harvest festival- elements of which remain on modern day tables through the presence of foods native to the U.S. such as turkey, potatoes, squash, corn, and cranberries.
Traditionally, families use the federal holiday to travel home and share an early meal together; many households also watch American football games as a part of their gatherings, with the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington football team (formally the controversial Washington Redskins) playing for decades on the November Thursday.
Commonly considered the start of the fall-winter holiday season, this holiday finds its historical roots in interactions between English settlers and indigenous American tribes. Many Americans cite the ‘First Thanksgiving’ as the Pilgrims’ celebration of their harvest in October 1621. Over a period of three days, more than 50 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans shared a feast; an event which has been tainted in controversy considering prior violent clashes between settlers and native tribes. For this reason, some have characterized Thanksgiving as a time for mourning as some Native American tribes and activists believe it represents a reinterpretation of American history that negates the violent conquest of the U.S. by European settlers.
While the history of Thanksgiving lends to more complex conversations over American history and the treatment of Native Americans, the hallmarks of reunion and family remains intrinsic to the holiday. These values and their celebration in the fall season are shared across the Pacific in China, demonstrating similarities between communities in both countries. Regardless of differing traditions, celebrating family is a joyful prospect we all agree on.