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Winter Park celebrates Asian culture

The Rollins China Club meets to discuss plans for their upcoming event, the Moon Festival. this is just one way students can embrace South Asian culture in Winter Park. (Curtis Shaffer / Staff Photographer)

A number of events related to various Asian cultures are coming to the Winter Park area.

These events will give students a chance to immerse themselves in age-old traditions through crafts, food, and entertainment. The festivities begin with the China Club’s Moon Festival followed by the South Asian Film Festival from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 at the Enzian Theater.

This year’s Moon Festival was held on Bush Lawn, Sept. 26 from 6-8 p.m. It included traditional Chinese food and drinks, including King Bao and the festival’s famous mooncakes, which are characteristic of the Mid-Autumn Festival and range in various flavors depending on the region. 

One of the most famous legends associated with the holiday is that of Chang’e Flying to the Moon. The story goes that there were 10 suns in the sky, bearing down so much heat that the earth was burning. 

An archer named Hou Yi shot nine of them out of the sky in order to save the people of Earth. For his good deeds, the Western Queen Mother gifted him an elixir for immortality. 

One night, the elixir was almost stolen until Yi’s wife, Chang’e, forced herself to drink it, knowing she would be separated from him forever. She flew to the moon, where she would live out eternity. 

Hou Yi prayed to the moon in her honor, never to see her again. In this sense, the moon represented lost time with a lover, hence its symbolic importance in the festival.  

“The moon cakes are round, symbolizing the reunion of a family… people present mooncakes to relatives and friends to demonstrate that they wish them a long and happy life,” said China Club President Chu Chu (‘19). 

The Moon Festival, also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival, is deeply rooted in representing the change of seasons, a time of giving thanks and appreciation to loved ones. Neighborhoods can be seen filled with lanterns, while some regions host dragon and lion dances. 

“Every year, on the day of Mid-Autumn Festival, it is said that the moon is the brightest and roundest, representing family reunions… for families and friends to gather around and to give thanks to the harvest of the year,” said Chu. 

Students could also participate in do-it-yourself lantern projects and traditional Chinese puzzle solving.

This is one of the many events the China Club has in store for the Rollins community. Throughout the year, the club will provide many opportunities for students to learn about East Asian culture, including research programs and alumni guest speakers who work in China. 

“Our club aims to immerse the Rollins community with Chinese culture…we intend to further develop our events to be more educational and practical,” Chu said. 

In honor of celebrating unity, the China Club “aims to celebrate this special holiday together with the Rollins’ students and staffs, so as to increase diversity and inclusion on campus as well as to spread the Chinese culture and customs to our community,” Chu said.

Outside of Rollins, but just down the street, the  Enzian Theater, a non-profit local theater located at 1300 Orange Ave., will host the South Asian Film Festival as part of its Cultural Festival Circuit.

The festival will open with films addressing hot-button topics, like climate change and HIV, that are rooted within the Indian subcontinent. 

Movie-goers can also try items from the special South Asian menu that will be offered throughout the festival’s run. Individual tickets are $11 each or an entire series pass can be purchased for $50. 

The festival is partnered with the Asian Cultural Association (ACA) located in Orlando, whose mission statement is displayed as seeking to “increase awareness of these traditions among Asian and non-Asian audiences in an effort to advance and preserve their continued existence in the modern world.”

This will be the festival’s 24th year; it first began when ACA approached Enzian about “starting a film series or mini-festival highlighting independent South Asian cinema that was different from the usual Bollywood fare that was getting screened in communities with larger Indian populations across the U.S.,” said Matthew Curtis, Enzian program coordinator. 

Enzian is an independent theater that is a host to many special screening events that take place throughout the year including the Jewish Film Festival, the Florida Film festival, the Reel Representation Diversity in Film festival, and other themes offered each month. 

The theater supports the use of film as a platform for the diverse voices in the Orlando area, believing “cinema to be a window to the world, providing local audiences the opportunity to experience other cultures and unique voices that they likely don’t encounter in their day-to-day lives,” Curtis said.

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