A Beginner’s Guide to Mid-Autumn Festival

Join me as I uncover the mythology and celebration behind this famous Chinese holiday!


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As a Filipino-American, I had never heard of the Mid-Autumn Festival before this year. The festival happens on the fifteenth day of the eighth month in the lunar calendar. This year, it lands on October 1st, kicking off one of my favorite months. Recently, I educated myself on the festival in order to celebrate it. As a newbie, here’s what I found fascinating about the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Rooted in Mythology

I’m a sucker for mythological legends and folktales.  The Mid-Autumn Festival honors the legend of Chang’ e and her husband, Hou Yi.

The pair were given an immortality elixir as a gift for shooting down eight of the nine suns that burned the earth. One night while her husband was away, thieves broke into Chang’ e house to steal the elixir. However, Chang’ e took the elixir to protect it from enemy hands. The magical potion made Chang’ e fly to the moon as the new immortal Moon Goddess. In remembrance, her husband ate fruits and made cakes in the moon’s likeness as a way to celebrate her.

Mooncake Chang'e 嫦娥奔月 Mid-Autumn Festival Hou Yi, PNG, 800x600px, Mooncake,  Cuisine, Food,

The new Netflix animated movie, “Over the Moon,” includes the myth of Chang’e. With its release in October of this year, the film will fit nicely into this Mid-Autumn celebration.

Mooncakes have taken on a life of their own. You can find them in just about any bakery this time of year.  You can also get special flavors such as coffee or vanilla at Starbucks and Shanghai Disneyland!

 Starbucks Mooncakes: a beautiful and delicious take on a traditional  product | SoraNews24 -Japan News-

Family Reunion

The Mid-Autumn Festival, also called the Moon Festival, started 3000 years ago as a celebration of the moon symbolizing a successful harvest. It has since evolved into a way for families to celebrate each other. It is custom to get together for a family reunion.

Mid Autumn Festival Display Background Material in 2020 | Mid autumn  festival, Fall festival, Happy mid autumn festival

Families will burn incense, make sacrifices of food to the moon or ancestors, make wishes, and worship the moon. Everyone will gather at home and enjoy a delicious feast in celebration. Some common dishes served during the festival are duck, crab taro, pumpkin, osmanthus cake and rice wine.

Lanterns 

Hand-crafted lanterns symbolize a happy family reunion and hope for good fortune in the future. As early as the Song Dynasty, floating lanterns down a river has been a tradition. Nowadays, parks and gardens also set up giant lantern displays to celebrate, like Christmas light shows in other parts of the world. Another tradition, specifically in Hong Kong, is wax burning. It involves melting candles into a carton of empty mooncake containers and then splashing water onto the burning wax. This tradition can be dangerous, so be careful!

It's Mid-Autumn Festival time in Asia | Human World | EarthSky

The Mid-Autumn Festival celebrates family, Chinese mythology and a successful year. It’s full of reunions, good food and colorful lights. What’s not to love!? Now I’m craving my mooncake!

I recently studied abroad in Asia for the first time; I spent six months living in the Philippines. While I was there, we celebrated All Soul’s Day, the day after Halloween. We brought flowers and candles to the graves of our ancestors. We had the graves blessed and cleaned before having a large family celebration in the graveyard. There was an entire feast complete with numerous desserts, flowing beer, and an entire Lechon (whole roasted pig). It was a celebration of family, both living and the dead, through food, music and a light show. I imagine the Mid-Autumn Festival to be similar! It is wonderful to see how each Asian culture honors their ancestors as members of their growing family, gives thanks for their blessings, and wishes good fortune for the years to come.


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Emma Federer

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