by Lin Hao
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept. 30 (Xinhua) -- Ayer Tawar is a small and quite town in Malaysia's Perak State in the northeastern part of the Malay Peninsula, some four-hour drive from the capital city of Kuala Lumpur.
Ayer Tawar literally means "fresh water" in the Malay language, but most residents here are descendants of migrants from China's Fujian province, who ventured to the then Malaya as early as a century ago to seek their fortune. However, these overseas Chinese still preserve their tradition in celebrating the Mid-Autumn, one of the most important festivals for the Chinese people.
This year, the local Chinese community tries to revive the old tradition by holding a big lantern parade just days before the Mid- Autumn which falls on Sunday. Several hundreds of residents, most of them kids, marched through the lanes and streets, chanting and singing the old folks that have been passing down for generations.
"There were large rubber plantations here before," said Ting Kong Liong, a local community leader, "The way we celebrated the festival was a little different from now. We didn't have that many people, just several friends walking through the rubber trees with lantern, as we all lived in separate rubber plantations."
"We didn't have much money at that time, or these fancy lanterns like now," said the 66-year-old, who had the experience of tapping rubber at midnight as a teenager, "We made the lanterns out of used milk cans or other things."
In the early 1950s, residents moved into Ayer Tawar, then a small village. As more and more Malays and Malaysian Indians moved in, the Chinese community invited their new friends to join in the lantern parade with a new catchword "Mari Mari Bo-o", which combined the words "Come" in both Malay and Tamil.
As time went by, the small village turned into a small town, and the rubber plantations were replaced by oil palms, now a pillar for the local economy and for the country as a whole.
Some of the older generation have already began to worry about the future of their old tradition, as many of their children have moved to the big cities such as Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
"We Chinese attach great importance to the Mid-Autumn festival, " said Nga Nguk Siang, a senior resident, "At least that's the case for our generation."
"However, I am worried that the tradition will not be carried on in the future, as the younger generations have a totally different way of living compared with ours."
The prospect is not that dim. Many Ayer Tawarers returned to hometown for this year's lantern parade celebration.
Meanwhile, young people have been taking more and more responsibility for organizing the parade and preserving the old tradition under the beautiful full moon.