The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, is one of the most important traditional festivals in China. It falls on the 15th day of the 8th month in the lunar calendar, which usually corresponds to September or October in the Gregorian calendar. This festival is a time for family gatherings, moon appreciation, and the enjoyment of delicious mooncakes.
The Legend behind the Festival
According to Chinese folklore, the Mid-Autumn Festival is associated with the legend of Chang'e, the Moon Goddess. It is said that long ago, there were ten suns in the sky, causing great harm to the earth. Houyi, a skilled archer, shot down nine of the suns, saving humanity from disaster. As a reward, he was given the elixir of immortality. However, he did not consume it immediately and instead entrusted it to his wife, Chang'e. One day, Houyi's apprentice tried to steal the elixir, and in order to prevent him from succeeding, Chang'e swallowed it herself. She then flew to the moon, where she has resided ever since. On the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, when the moon is at its fullest and brightest, people celebrate this legend by offering sacrifices to Chang'e and enjoying mooncakes.
Family Reunion and Moon Appreciation
During the Mid-Autumn Festival, it is customary for families to come together and enjoy a reunion dinner. Family members who live far apart often make an effort to return home for this special occasion. The festive atmosphere is enhanced by the beautiful full moon, which is considered a symbol of reunion and harmony. Many people take the opportunity to appreciate the moon's beauty and serenity by gathering in open spaces, such as parks or rooftops, to watch the moonrise. Lanterns of various shapes and sizes are also hung up to create a magical atmosphere.
The Tradition of Mooncakes
Mooncakes are an essential part of the Mid-Autumn Festival. These round pastries are traditionally filled with lotus seed paste or red bean paste and often contain a salted egg yolk in the center, symbolizing the full moon. Nowadays, there are numerous modern variations of mooncakes available, including ones with different fillings such as nuts, fruits, or even ice cream. The exchange of mooncakes is a common practice during this festival, as people give them as gifts to friends, family, and business partners as a gesture of goodwill and blessings.
Other Customs and Activities
In addition to moon appreciation and mooncakes, there are various other customs and activities associated with the Mid-Autumn Festival. One popular activity is the carrying of brightly lit lanterns, especially by children. These lanterns can be simple handheld ones or elaborate ones in the shape of animals or characters from folklore. Another traditional game is the dice game known as "Deng Mi," where players roll dice to win prizes. Additionally, there are often performances of traditional dances and songs, as well as the display of colorful fireworks.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is a time of joy, reunion, and cultural significance in China. It is a time when families come together, appreciate the beauty of the moon, and indulge in delicious mooncakes. This festival not only celebrates the legend of Chang'e but also showcases the rich traditions and customs of Chinese culture. Whether it is through family gatherings, moon watching, or the exchange of mooncakes, the Mid-Autumn Festival fosters a sense of unity and warmth among people, making it a cherished and memorable occasion.