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Mine was always a dragon, with a red body and green scales, while my sister would go for the smallest one at the stall our parents took us to, usually a squirrel or rabbit. I’m talking about lanterns of course.

In the two weeks or so leading up to Mid Autumn Festival, we would have our own little lantern parade around the housing area. Ours was a multi-racial neighbourhood and all the kids participated. Who doesn’t like those colourful, cute animal-shaped lanterns anyway?

We would pretend to be vigilantes or super heroes as we roamed the neighbourhood.  Whenever we saw a stray dog, we pretended it was a monster that could only be defeated if we all stood in a circle and held our lanterns up high.

At the end of the night, whoever had the most intact lantern would win. Those who had tears or burns in their lanterns would go home and patch them up with cellophane tape.

We gave each other nicknames based on the design of our lanterns and during those parades, we were only allowed to call each other by those and not our real names.

It was just a fun thing we kids came up with but looking back, I realise how true it is when people say that among children, things like race, religion and skin colour don’t matter.

As we walked around balancing our candle-lit animals in one hand, we looked past all that and saw instead, the colourful paper and paint on each lantern, the warm glow that radiated from each and the patterned shadows they made.

We may not have fully understood what the festival was really about then – all I knew was there was a lady who lived in the moon with a rabbit – but I think we lived up to its significance in that it’s about people coming together, thanksgiving and celebrating harmonious unions.”

What other Malaysian customs or lifestyle habit brought your family and friends together? Share your story by leaving a comment below.

Image above from flickr under the Creative Commons License from Choo Yut Shing.

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