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Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节)

The mid-autumn festival falls on the 15th day, of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, meaning that this year it will be on the 24th of September. It is known to be an important traditional Chinese event, like thanksgiving in the US.

The mid-autumn festival has 3 main fundamental concepts, these are;

  • Gathering – for family and friends coming together (harvesting crops for the festival)

  • Thanksgiving – to give thanks for the harvest

  • Praying – for conceptual/material satisfaction, e.g., babies, a spouse, beauty, longevity, or for a good future.

The most widely accepted tale for the origin of the festival is the story of Chang E. In ancient times, it has been said that ten suns existed, and the heat due to this made life very difficult for the people of China. The hero Hou Yi shot down nine of the ten suns, due to his great strength. After hearing of his heroics, many people from far and wide came to learn from him. After some time, Hou Yi married a beautiful and kind-hearted woman, called Chang E. Hou Yi, came across Wangmu (also known as the queen of heaven) on his way to meet and old friend. She presented Hou Yi with an elixir, which would allow him to ascend to heaven and immediately become a god. Hou Yi decided to take it home and present it to his wife, but he was spotted by Pang Meng. While Hou Yi was out hunting, Pang Meng rushed to Chang E and tried to force her to hand over the elixir, knowing that she would be over powered, Chang E drank the elixir, and a that moment she flew up towards the heavens. However, her love for her husband guided her towards the moon, the nearest place to the earth and the heavens. After hearing what had happened to his wife, Hou Yi was devastated, he would shout out Chang E’s name to the sky. To his amazement, he saw a figure that looked like his wife appear in the Moon. He took her favourite food to an altar and offered it as a sacrifice, which has since then become a tradition, giving sacrifices to the moon.

Mooncakes are a huge part of the mid-autumn festival. The round shape is supposed to symbolise completeness and reunion and are usually given to family and friends. A traditional mooncake is usually filled with a duck egg yolk, red bean paste, or lotus seed paste and various other ingredients, however, more recently they may have fillings such as cookies or ice cream. There is also legend to why the mooncakes are so popular. The legend states that mooncakes where key to the uprising of the Han Chinese, over the Mongol overlords. The Han Chinese had used the mooncakes to hide messages of rebellion that was to happen on mid-autumn day. Which may also be why mooncakes are given as gifts to one another.

In addition, the Chinese also use lanterns to celebrate the mid-autumn festival, either carrying them, lighting them on towers or having floating sky lanterns. Also, food that is popular during the festival will include nine-jointed lotus roots, symbolising peace, as well as watermelons cut into the shape of lotus petals, symbolising reunion. Families will also gather to offer sacrifices to the moon, usually fruits such as apples, pears, peaches, grapes, pomegranates etc. The festival may also be used to celebrate marriage, women would pray to Chang E to help fulfil their romantic wishes.

That is a short insight into the mid-autumn day festival, make sure to loosen your belts for all the mooncakes that you will be eating. Make sure to look out for any events that are going on, many people choose to into taller buildings so that they have closer contact with the moon, whereas others may prefer to stay at home and celebrate with their families.

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