Idul Fitri and Mooncake Festival Celebrations
This is how we put on a festival at Kingston, y’all.
I mentioned before that Idul Fitri is the Indonesian translation of “Eid al-Fitr,” the holiday at the end of the month of Ramadhan. The Mooncake Festival (aka Mid-Autumn Festival, Moon Festival, or in Chinese, Zhongqiu Jie) is a festival holiday in China that is celebrated by getting together with relatives, Moon-gazing, and eating dense round cakes filled with egg yolk or lotus bean paste. There is a whole story that goes along with it that I’ll talk about when I get to the performances.
Indonesia’s main ethnic populations are local Indonesian/Islander, Hokkien Chinese, Indian, and Muslim descended from the Arab traders who inhabited the coasts of the country from the 1400s on. Our school is largely ethnic Chinese, because those are the families that typically have money for private tuition; as a result, we try to give as much attention to Chinese holidays and traditions as to the Indonesian ones (which usually are the Muslim holidays). It just so happened that this year, Idul Fitri and the Mooncake Festival occurred around the same time, so we decided to put on a celebration honoring both holidays.
In the staff meeting where we discussed the celebrations, I realized I was sitting around a table full of Indonesian and Filipina teachers, most of whom are Christian, and the rest Muslim. The school has a few Chinese teachers but they are all either in Nursery and Kindergarten, or special subjects (IT and Mandarin), and also weren’t present for the staff meeting. So, since I speak Mandarin enough to teach a song or story, and since I’ve also lived through an actual Chinese Moon Festival, I figured I’d probably better offer myself as a resource for putting together the Moon Festival side of things.
(It was the next day that I found out I was being shipped off to Malaysia for two whole days.)
We decided to split the classes down the middle, to have half working on Idul Fitri, and half working on Moon Festival. So the class teachers for P1, P4 and P5 (same as 1st, 4th, and 5th grades) volunteered to have their classes do the Chinese celebration. Of those classes I only teach the P5’s, so I was looking forward to working with the P4’s (a handful of whom are in my choir) and the little P1’s. We decided it would be a good idea to have each class take on some aspect of the holiday.
Well, I was looking forward to it until I found out that I’d be in Malaysia for two of the practice days, and also didn’t have internet for the entire weekend previous. I got that email on Sunday saying, “Hey, we need something for these classes to do on Monday and Tuesday.” I suggested that P1 do a presentation on mooncakes, P4 could do a traditional Mandarin children’s song, and P5 could do a pantomime drama to tell the story. So basically had I set myself up for researching all of these things, putting together crib sheets, plus teaching P4 and P5 their song and drama, and I wasn’t going to be there for two of the days; but I didn’t want to short shrift the holiday celebrations.
Thank God for my colleagues, who are seriously awesome. Our Mandarin teacher, who has been insanely busy teaching the Mandarin for the entire school this term since the other Mandarin teacher quit at the beginning of the year, dedicated a whole extra class period to teaching the P4 class the words to their song; the P1 teachers took my notes on Mooncakes and told me not to worry about it at all, they would handle making a presentation of some sort out of it. The P5 class teacher was instrumental in arranging schedules and rooms so that I could have the P4 and P5 classes for as much time as possible on Wednesday and Thursday. Without those women, we would not have had a show.
I forgot to mention – while all of this was going on, the students and class teachers were also preparing to have a bazaar after the festival performances. We’ve been working on a series of charity fundraisers and projects to send money to Somalia via ChildFund. They’ve all been working incredibly hard to get this off the ground, and the culminating event was this bazaar where the students sold arts, crafts, and food for the parents who came to watch the performances.
Oh, and the Y7 class teacher contracted Dengue fever this past week, and was out until Thursday afternoon.
Needless to say, this whole week has been absolutely insane. Wednesdays are usually really busy for me anyway, since I teach 6 class periods plus lunch duty and a study hall; but this week every spare minute (and a few where I was supposed to be somewhere else) went to the P4 and P5 classes for performances, as well as trying to cover the sick teacher’s periods with Y7 and P4 (math).
Poor P4 had to put up with me for 4 whole class periods. We had a lot of fun working on their song, “Grandpa Makes Mooncakes for Me” – they were so impressed when I started working with them and they found out I could sing in Mandarin! And we put together a cute little choreographed dance to go along with it.
P5’s contribution was, as I said, to do a pantomime drama of the story of Hou Yi and Chang’E, otherwise known as the Archer and the Moon Princess. The basic story is that Hou Yi was this great hero who shot down nine of the ten suns that used to be in the sky and saved the kingdom from drought and famine, and as a reward was given the Pill of Immortality. One of his apprentices tried to steal the pill, and to protect it, Chang’E swallowed it herself, and it caused her to float away off to the Moon. Hou Yi saw that the Moon was very bright that night, and that her shape flitted over its face, so he put out her favorite snacks on a table in the garden and stared up at the Moon the whole night. Now the Moon Festival is celebrated according to the lunar calendar on the 15th day of the 8th month (which is the Full Moon in September or October, depending on the year). P5 chose some students to narrate the story and some to portray the characters in pantomime, and the resulting drama was unbelievably cute.
Thursday was much the same, every spare moment dedicated to practices and songs and dancing and making paper masks and all sorts of craziness. Meanwhile the students were spending all of their spare moments finishing lanyards, bracelets, bookmarks, and other goodies to sell at the bazaar. Kingston was this week an absolute hive of activity.
I think we were all a little relieved at the arrival of Friday. Our schedule was seriously wonky for the entire day, because we had to have the performances in the morning before Kindergarten and Nursery (who also had little, ADORABLE presentations) went home. So classes were about 20 minutes long all day, and there was an hour to set up the bazaar stalls, and everyone was running around getting their food and drinks prepared, and doing last minute prep for the performances. I was just glad when the performance started. I had to get up onstage to conduct the P4’s, and was backstage cuing entrances for P5, but after that was over, I was all done and got to sit back and relax for the rest of the performances. That was actually really nice, because I got to see the P6 and Y7 (my students) perform without having to worry about anything else. For the amount of time we had to put it together, it was a tremendously well-run and enjoyable performance. So proud of my kids.
Oh, but not so proud of their parents. Apparently no one knows how to applaud here, unless their child is performing. Also, the parents trickled in at various times through the performance, some missing their child’s performance completely, and left as soon as their child was finished. These are stay-at-home moms, y’all. They spend a lot of days hanging around the school uninvited anyway, and yet couldn’t spend 40 minutes watching a performance that the whole school worked so hard on? Community-building is something that needs a lot of work here. But the kids were fabulous.
And the bazaar went really well, also! I don’t have exact figures, but it sounds like we will be sending almost $700 USD to Somalia to help the relief efforts. Really impressive, considering their wares mostly cost $1-$2 each. Some classes did some sponsorship activities as well over the last few weeks, but still, I think we pulled in most of that just from the 1-hour sale. Go Kingston! And that’s thanks to the parents, to give credit where it is due. They are great at spending money for a cause, even if they can’t sit still and watch some adorable kids perform for less than an hour.
So, a totally crazy week, but lots of fun. I am very much looking forward to things getting back to normal next week.