VALPARAISO | Valparaiso University's Chinese students enjoyed a taste of home Sunday night with the celebration of their national holiday, the Moon Festival.
About 400 people, including students, faculty, staff and residents gathered in the Harre Union for the event, which promotes the unity of families.
“We want to make sure our Chinese students have somewhere to celebrate,” said Yun Xia, acting chair of Chinese and Japanese Studies at VU.
The university is home to 230 Chinese students, and between 60 and 80 American students are studying Chinese at VU, she said.
Xia said the 2,000-year-old moon festival marks the halfway point of autumn according to the lunar calendar.
“On that day, the moon should be round, and it symbolizes the reunion of family members,” she said.
In China, residents began celebrating last Thursday, which was the actual day of the full moon. The festival continued for three days with people receiving a holiday from work.
At VU, the celebration began with performances by Chinese students, followed by the costume musical, “Romance of the Western Chamber,” with a mainly American cast and crew, singing in Chinese.
A highlight of the gathering is eating “moon cakes,” round pastries with red beans and other types of fillings. Other snacks included peanuts, clementines and grape tomatoes.
Valparaiso residents Ron and Pat Rhew nibbled on snacks before the program started. They said they came to watch a performance by one of the Chinese students they know through their church's Friendship Families program.
“This is exciting,” Pat Rhew said. “There's a buzz in the air.”
The couple are members of Valparaiso Nazarene Church, which pairs international students with church members who take the students on outings to show them local life.
Sherry DeMik, director of disability support services at VU, and a member of the Nazarene Church, said she's taken her students to the mall, beach and Amish Acres.
Also attending the festival were American students studying Chinese at local middle and high schools, and nine members of the Chinese consulate in Chicago. The event was sponsored by VU's Chinese and Japanese Studies program, the Confucius Institute and the Chinese Students' Association.