Canada is set to be the focus of the second annual Moon Festival, a United Kingdom event that drew thousands of people its first year and is being held digitally July 5 to August 3, 2020.
Partnering with the High Commission of Canada in London, this year’s digital festival is billed as “a celebration of all things lunar across time and cultures through digital activities.”
Last year, the Moon Festival’s in-person iteration in London drew 3,500 people and honoured the 50th anniversary of the first human lunar landing on July 20, 1969. Reaching beyond the scientific angle, the Canadian focus this year includes a nod to the Moon’s importance in the cultural context, especially for Indigenous peoples.
“I was fascinated with, why the Moon? Why do we as a species care so much about the Moon, and made up so many stories about it? Why do we create stories about the various gods?” said festival director Livia Filotico, speaking from Rome in a telephone interview.
Filotico, who is Italian, said Canadian participants would be speaking as to why the Moon is important to them. Prominent presenters include Canadian science journalist and environmental activist Alanna Mitchell, Inuk Elder artist Manasiah Akpaliapik and singer Janet Fischer. Filotico said the keynote address will come from Canadian author Margaret Atwood, who is set to open the festival with a reading of an original, unpublished Moon-themed story.
Filotico added that something she found fascinating was that Métis, Cree and Inuit societies traditionally follow lunar calendars — there are approximately 13 lunar cycles per year — rather than a solar calendar.
“There are many different stories and folk tales and origin myths that relate to the Moon, which might show different ways of learning,” Filotico said. “This understanding is fundamental for the exploration of the Moon, and what it means today.”
Scientific understanding of the Moon is also a valid perspective, Filotico said, but the danger is that science can lead to hierarchical thinking, with the tendency to place information into categories and to decide which categories might be more relevant to science exploration.
As demonstrations continue across the United States and Canada in relation to anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism and inequality, Filotico said it is important to find more egalitarian ways of understanding the Moon. Studying culture, she said, “tends to promote a more widespread, non-hierarchical approach to life.
“I think it’s very important, especially now more than ever, to consider different approaches to life,” she added.
Planning for the 2021 event is at an early stage, but Filotico added she hopes the pandemic will have lifted enough to hold at least some events in person.