Every year in the middle of autumn Chinese people celebrate one of the most important holidays of their culture – Mid-Autumn Festival. Celebrating traditions are very interesting and exciting, therefore, we have prepared this article to tell you about the origins of the holiday, traditional meals and other fascinating facts about this great event.
Traditionally, the Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the 8th month by the lunar calendar, which is also a day of full moon. The event is also known as the Moon Festival or Harvest Moon Festival, as on the day of celebration the Moon becomes the most full, round and bright. This year the holiday is celebrated on September 15th
Mainly all Chinese holidays have different legends on the background, so does the Mid-Autumn Festival. The legend says, that long time ago, there were 10 suns in the sky. It was so hot that all plants were burnt and people were suffering from hunger. One day, a hero whose name was Hou Yi used his bow and arrows to shoot down nine suns, leaving only one in the sky. He saved all the people on the Earth and everybody admired him. Even the Queen of Heaven was so excited that she gave Hou Yi a bottle of elixir that could make him immortal. As long as Hou Yi loved his beautiful wife Chang’e very much and wanted to stay with her until death separates them, he didn’t want to become immortal, therefore he didn’t drink the elixir and asked his beloved to keep the bottle away from him. Hou Yi became very popular after he shot nine suns; so many young men wanted Hou Yi to be their master. He welcomed most of them and trained them the mastery of bow shooting. Unfortunately, not all students wanted to be just good hunters. One student, whose name was Feng Meng wanted to steal the elixir. One day, when Hou Yi went hunting with his students, Feng Meng pretended to be ill and stayed at home. When he was sure that Hou Yi is gone, he went to Hou Yi’s house and forced his wife to give him the bottle of elixir. Chang’e knew that she will never defeat Feng Meng so she opened the elixir and drank it all. The magic elixir made her immortal and gave her an ability to fly. After all, she flew away and stopped on the Moon. When Hou Yi died, he ascended to the sun, so on the fifteenth day of the 8th month they meet for one day. That is why Moon is very bright and round on this day. From then on, people started to pray to Chang’e, asking for fortune and safety, and also giving lots of foods to Chang’e during Mid-Autumn Festival
This Festival has a deep meaning for Chinese people and this day’s celebration includes three fundamental ideas that are closely connected with each other:
- Gathering with family, friends and relatives to celebrate the festival.
- Thanksgiving – to express gratitude for the harvest or for harmonious relationships.
- Praying for better life, health, good harvest.
In China everyone without exception admires Mid-autumn Festival. On this particular night, people adore a full Moon and spend time together with their families and friends. The older generation loves this festival, because they receive special attention and gifts, while youth usually stays outside until late night and enjoys the delicious cakes – because only during this holiday they can eat moon cakes. Millions of sky lanterns light up this night in heaven, fill the night with bright light, and warm up the hearts of those who are far from each other.
Another interesting tradition of this holiday’s celebration is “moon cakes”. By the way, the other name for this holiday is Mooncake Festival, because of the popular tradition of eating moon cakes on this occasion.
Moon cakes – (Yuebin) – is a traditional food for this wonderful holiday. Basically it is a gingerbread, which can be stored for a long time. Moon cakes are also considered as holy meal in Chinese culture. They are traditionally served with Chinese tea, and very rarely mooncakes are served steamed or fried.
The mooncake is not just a usual meal. It has ancient roots in Chinese tradition and deep symbolical meaning: its round shape symbolizes completeness and togetherness while Full Moon means prosperity and reunion of the whole family. That is why Chinese prefer to eat moon cakes together with their families and friends during the Mid-Autumn Festival. People often present the cakes in order to express their love and wish long and happy life
The most significant meaning of the Mid-Autumn festival is hidden behind these simple traditions. In China, people believe that autumn is a very beautiful but sad time of the year. It means farewell to the bright summer. However, thoughts about new moon warm hearts and souls of all people and give them hope and inspiration for new gatherings, new initiatives, achievements, and belief in happy future.
Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!