The three days Mid-Autumn Festival kicked off Friday night at Portland’s Lan Su Chinese Garden with a lantern sighting and the first lion dances to return to the garden since the start of the pandemic.
“Honestly, I didn’t know if I was going to cry when I was here because it had been so long,” said Gloria Saepharn, senior member of the Portland Lee Association Dragon and Lion Dance Team.
The team canceled workouts when the coronavirus pandemic began, and while dancers join the group as young as 8, Friday’s event only included vaccinated adolescent and adult performers.
The illuminated lions were the highlight of the Friday night festivities in the garden. Two lions, each consisting of two dancers in costumes covered in sequins, fur and LEDs, strolled through the garden while interacting with masked guests.
“The Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the most important festivals in Chinese culture, right after the Chinese New Year,” said Elizabeth Nye, executive director of the Lan Su Chinese Garden. “It is traditionally celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. It is a time in China, and also in other East Asian countries that celebrate mid-autumn, for the family to reunite under a full moon.
To celebrate, the garden was adorned with round orange paper lanterns and hundreds of electronic water lilies floating on the stream running through space.
All three evening lantern viewings were sold out, but entry is still available for daytime activities, which include story time, calligraphy demonstrations, a “wand challenge”, a five-moon scavenger hunt. hidden in the garden and the making of paper lanterns. Visitors can also enjoy tea and moon cakes in the garden tea room.
“It’s a nice, happy and healthy place, it’s fun and it’s beautiful,” said Raynette Yoshida, who has volunteered in the garden since 2002 and ran the Friday Paper Lantern Making Station for children and adults.
Lan Su Garden is celebrating its 21st anniversary this year. Built as part of a relationship with Portland’s sister city Suzhou, Nye said the garden was created in China, dismantled, shipped to Oregon, and hand-rebuilt by 65 artisans.
“It is regarded to this day as one of the most authentic Chinese gardens outside of China,” she said.
The garden is made up of a square block in Old Town Chinatown, but inside, its winding alleys appear much larger.
“There is this concept of being the quiet oasis with the bustling city around us that is part of our identity,” Nye said. “What better place for people to come during these turbulent times we live in to rejuvenate and cool off.”
The daytime festival continues from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The activities are part of the general admission to the garden. Tickets, ranging from $ 9.95 to $ 12.95, can be purchased online.
Lan Su Garden, which was closed for four months during the pandemic before reopening with limited capacity, is also hosting a virtual fundraiser called At the Moonlight September 21.
And if you missed out on getting evening tickets for the Mid-Autumn Festival, mark your calendar for New Years celebrations in February 2022.