The Autumn Moon Festival

The Moon Festival, also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival or Zhongqiu Festival is a popular harvest festival celebrated by Chinese and Vietnamese people, dating back over 3,000 years to moon worship in China's Shang Dynasty. It was first called Zhongqiu Jie (literally "Mid-Autumn Festival") in the Zhou Dynasty. In Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines, it is also sometimes referred to as the Lantern Festival or Mooncake Festival.

 

The Moon Festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, which is in September or early October in the Gregorian calendar. It is a date that parallels the autumnal equinox of the solar calendar, when the moon is at its fullest and roundest. The traditional food of this festival is the mooncake, of which there are many different varieties.

 

One story tells it that Chang E saved the country from the everlasting rule of an evil emperor. She drank the elixir of immortality that was meant for him, and ascended to heaven to become the Goddess of the Moon. To thank her, the people celebrated the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar months as Moon Festival day.

 

In Yuan Dynasty, moon cakes was once used as medium of passing messages to the people to revolt against the invaders. During the Moon Festival, a written plan devised to drive out the invaders was secretly embedded in moon cakes to delivery the message and it worked in a era without the use of "Internet"!

 

The Moon Festival is one of the few most important holidays in the Chinese calendar, the others being Chinese New Year and Winter Solstice, and is a legal holiday in several countries. Farmers celebrate the end of the fall harvesting season on this date. Traditionally on this day, Chinese family members and friends will gather to admire the bright mid-autumn harvest moon, and eat moon cakes and pomelos under the moon together. Accompanying the celebration, there are additional cultural or regional customs, such as:

 

  • Carrying brightly lit lanterns, lighting lanterns on towers, floating sky lanterns
  • Burning incense in reverence to deities including Chang'e
  • Erect the Mid-Autumn Festival. It is not about planting trees but hanging lanterns on the bamboo pole and putting them on a high point, such as roofs, trees, terraces, etc. It is a custom in Guangzhou, Hong Kong, etc.
  • Collecting dandelion leaves and distributing them evenly among family members
  • Fire Dragon Dances
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