Chinese Moon Festival
The Chinese Moon Festival, also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival, is one of the most important traditional festivals in Chinese culture. It is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar when the moon is believed to be at its fullest and brightest. This usually falls in September or October in the Gregorian calendar.
The festival has a rich history and various legends associated with it, but the most popular one revolves around the story of Chang’e, the Moon Goddess. According to the legend, there were once ten suns in the sky, which caused extreme heat and drought on Earth. A skilled archer named Hou Yi shot down nine of the suns and was rewarded with an elixir of immortality by the Queen Mother of the West. However, he didn’t want to become immortal without his wife, Chang’e.
Chang’e, curious about the elixir, consumed it and, as a consequence, became weightless and flew to the moon. There, she resided as the Moon Goddess. To honor her, people started offering sacrifices to the moon and celebrating the festival.
During the Chinese Moon Festival, families and friends come together to enjoy various traditions and activities, which include:
1. Mooncakes: Mooncakes are the quintessential treat of the festival. These are round pastries with various fillings, such as lotus seed paste, red bean paste, nuts, or salted egg yolks, symbolizing reunion and completeness. They often have intricate designs on top and are given as gifts to family and friends.
2. Lanterns: Colorful lanterns of different shapes and sizes are hung around houses and public spaces. Some lanterns may be in the form of animals, flowers, or zodiac signs, adding to the festive atmosphere.
3. Family Reunion: The festival is an occasion for family members to come together, similar to the importance of the Chinese New Year. People who live far away often make an effort to return home for this special occasion.
4. Moon Gazing: During the night of the festival, it is a tradition to gather outside and appreciate the full moon. The round shape of the moon symbolizes unity and togetherness.
5. Dragon and Lion Dances: In some regions, dragon and lion dances are performed during the Moon Festival. These traditional dances are believed to bring good luck and prosperity.
6. Floating River Lanterns: In certain areas, particularly in southern China, people may release small lanterns with candles into rivers, symbolizing hopes and wishes for the future.
The Chinese Moon Festival is a time of joy, reflection, and celebration of unity and togetherness. It holds deep cultural significance and continues to be cherished and observed by Chinese communities worldwide.