The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival or the Reunion Festival, is a traditional Chinese folk festival. The Mid-Autumn Festival originated from the worship of celestial phenomena and evolved from the Chuseok Festival in ancient times. The Mid-Autumn Festival and the Spring Festival, Tomb-Sweeping Day, and the Dragon Boat Festival are known as the four traditional Chinese festivals.
The Mid-Autumn Festival dates back to the early Tang Dynasty and was popular in the Song Dynasty. It had become a major festival, as important as the Spring Festival in the Ming and Qin Dynasties.
It is an important festival in southeast Asia, especially for overseas Chinese, and has a profound influence on neighboring countries. On May 20, 2006, it was listed in the Chinese National Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
Legend of Mid-Autumn Festival
The holiday began as a fairy tale. There -were ten suns in the sky. Rivers and lakes were dried up because of the heat. People were burned to death. A hero named Hou Yi shot down nine suns and saved his people. His mother gave him the elixir of immortality. He did not want to eat the elixir and leave his beautiful and mortal wife Chang 'e behind, so he gave the elixir to his wife to keep it.
One day, while Hou Yi was out to hunt, his apprentice Peng Meng tried to steal the elixir of immortality. Chang’e knew she could not give the vixen the elixir, so she swallowed it. Then she became a supernatural being. She flew to the moon and watched her husband from there. Hou Yi knew that his wife had been separated from him. One night he looked up at the moon and saw a figure like his wife. He hurried to give his wife a present of cake and jam (made by sweets, fruit, vegetables or sweets). Upon hearing the tale, people formed the custom of watching the moon and eating moon cakes on this day of the year.
Time of Mid-Autumn Festival
The Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar (between the last month), when the moon is said to be at its fullest.
Customs of Mid-Autumn Festival
Worship of the Moon
The custom of worshipping the moon dates back to the Xia and Shang Dynasties. Today, Chinese people send moon cakes to their relatives and friends as holiday gifts to express their best wishes when the day is coming.
Enjoy the Full Moon
In Chinese culture, people associate the full moon with family reunions. Even though separated by mountains and rivers, they are also enjoying the same moon, as if there is no distance.
Eat Moon Cakes
Eating moon cakes is almost every Chinese's Mid-Autumn Festival activity. There are various kinds of moon cakes all over China. Walnuts, almonds, sesame, melon seeds, hawthorn, lotus seeds, red beans, dates, fruit, eggs, lighthouse fruit and so on.
Originally, moon cakes were just a snack to offer sacrifices to the moon god. Later, people gradually give it the meaning of family reunion and take it as festival food, because moon cakes are also round. It is shared by the family after worshiping the moon.
Drink Sweet Osmanthus Wine
The Mid-Autumn Festival falls when the Osmanthus flowers are in full bloom. People are gradually associating Osmanthus flowers with the festival and carrying out some Mid-Autumn Festival activities. Among them, drinking Osmanthus wine is the most popular. Osmanthus wine is made of Osmanthus and high quality rice wine. It is said that people who drink Osmanthus wine at the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival will live longer.
Make and Hang Festival Lanterns
On that day, children make lanterns out of bamboo paper and hang them on high pillars. Their parents help them with these activities. Children compete with each other to see whose lantern is higher and whose lantern is the most delicate.
During the festival, people in some parts of southern China also put up Kongming lanterns, which are large square lanterns made of paper. The candle burns inside of the lantern and the heat will push the lantern into the sky. In addition, there are all kinds of lanterns for children to play with.
Guess Lantern Riddles
At the night of the Mid-Autumn full moon, many lanterns are hung in public places. People gather together to guess the riddles written on the lanterns. This is the favorite activity for most young men and women.
Mid-Autumn Festival in Other Asian Countries
Thanks to frequent exchanges with China and the migration of Chinese people, Mid-Autumn Festival has also become popular in other parts of the world, especially in neighboring Asian countries, where people celebrate it in the same way as in China, while other countries have added their own customs.