“What goes up but never comes down?” this was one of the many riddles that challenged the young people who came to celebrate the Church of Divine Mercy, Penang (CDM) first Mid-Autumn festival celebrations. This event was celebrated in the evening of the 11th September, just after the evening mass. Parishioners had some idea of the coming celebrations at mass when mooncakes and pomelos were presented as gifts during the offertory.
This event was the first event organized by the newly formed Chinese Apostolate here at CDM. Fr Martin Arlando, the parish priest, had challenged the ministry to showcase activities to celebrate the Chinese culture. The Mid-Autumn festival was chosen as it was the second most important celebration in the Chinese calendar and fell on the 15th day of the 8th month (15th September this year). The event took three months to plan and execute.
Casey Lim, a member of the organizing committee explained that in this festival, three fundamental concepts were closely tied to one another. First, the gathering of family and friends. Secondly, giving thanks for a good harvest and celebrating harmonious unions. Lastly, to pray for healthy babies, a good spouse, longevity and a good future. Mooncakes, the hallmark of this festival, were eaten because they symbolized completeness by their round shapes as well as unity in the family. Together with a full moon that is predicted to appear on that day, this would complete the picture of a family reunion. This is something that the Apostolate hoped to inspire in all the families at CDM.
The celebrations started off in the most Chinese traditional way of having a potbless dinner. A great variety of food was enjoyed by all and they were also entertained by Chinese songs and dances accompanied by music from violins and a Chinese harp. A riddles contest was started together with a calligraphy demonstration.
The start of the lantern procession was announced by the letting off of fireworks and Fr Martin led the revellers along a 1.8 km walk around the neighbourhood outside the church compounds. It was most interesting to see women in high heels, mothers managing toddlers with lighted lanterns, senior citizens as well as the youth all joining in. Lanterns were earlier handed out to all. Some eight parents carried lanterns that were made the day before in a lantern making contest held by the Living Springs Ministry. They were all made from recycled materials. All of them were given monetary prizes for their efforts. The walk was accompanied by songs sung by some enthusiastic young ladies to encourage the pace of the procession. The procession ended back at CDM and were warmly welcomed by those senior citizens who were not able to follow them. It concluded with a sampling of many varieties of mooncakes sponsored by the parishioners.
Simone Lee, chairperson of the Chinese Apostolate who organized the celebration said that their two main objectives were achieved. Firstly, it succeeded in bringing the Chinese community of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, that currently belonged to the zones in CDM, to come join in the festivities here at CDM. Secondly, the celebration helped to educate the parishioners on some aspects of the Chinese culture. It is especially important to pass on this aspect of Chinese heritage to the younger generations. She reiterated that their ministry would definitely organize the celebration again next year, with some surprizes in store.
Anthony Yeo, a visitor from the Divine Mercy parish in Shah Alam remarked that he experienced a sense of great community spirit here. In his opinion, the event was well organized, well timed and the food was very good. A young parishioner, Amanda said the best part of the celebration was to be able to walk in the lantern procession with her friends. Mandi, a Filipino parishioner said this was the first time she had participated in such a celebration with her two teenaged sons. They found it fun. However, they laughingly remarked that they weren’t so familiar carrying the lantern and it caught fire and had to be put out.
It was an exciting experience for all with the show of a great community spirit through the concerted efforts of the Chinese Apostolate and the parishioners of various races celebrating each other’s culture and diversity. This was very timely as we were due to celebrate Malaysia Day a few days later.
Dr. Ivan Filmer
17th September, 2016.