For the Chinese community, the Mid Autumn Festival means family reunion and happiness. This festival is celebrated at the peak of the full moon. For the Chinese community, the appearance of a large full moon (the moon looks perfectly round) is a symbol of prosperity, happiness, and family reunion.
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There are many traditional activities as well as meaningful celebrations held by most families in China and neighboring countries. The main traditional activities are tasting moon cakes, enjoying dinner with the whole family, gazing at the beauty of the full moon, and installing lanterns.
The Autumn Festival has a history that goes back more than 3000 years, starting with the worship of the moon during the Shang Dynasty (1600–1046 BC). So important is the significance of this festival, that so many works of poetry were written and legends spread widely. Its origins have also been reconstructed and told from generation to generation.
In many of China’s neighbors, the mid-autumn festival has also spread and is widely celebrated. There are many interesting activities held according to unique local traditions.
In China, people wear traditional clothes and perform ceremonies to worship the moon. They light a lotus-shaped candle, then throw it in the river. This they do while making requests, usually about life and sustenance. In some areas of China, there is still a tradition of making sticky rice into a sweet dish. The food is round, implying the shape of the moon as well as symbolizing togetherness.
Moon Cakes, Mid Autumn Festival Food
Moon cake is a traditional Chinese food that is specially served at the celebration of the Autumn Festival. What is unique about this festival is the many activities that involve giving and receiving and tasting mooncakes. Mooncakes are the hallmark of traditional Chinese snacks. Round in shape, resembling the full moon on a Mid-Autumn night. Up to 10 cm (4 inches) in diameter by 5 cm (2 inches) thick.
Generally, the inside of the moon cake has a densely textured filling and a sweet taste, while the outside is wrapped in cake skin. Mooncakes are served in small pieces, then distributed to all family members. Usually served with tea as a drink.
Quoting from various sources, during the Yuan Dynasty, mooncakes were used as secret messengers. It aims to assist the Han people in overthrowing the Mongol regime. The message lies in four mooncakes packaged in one box. The mooncake is cut into 16 pieces which must be arranged so that each piece will display a message.
There are so many legends of Chinese folk mythology in mooncakes. However, the best-known story is the legend of the moon goddess. She is the wife of Hou Yi who is an archer. Hou Yi’s wife disappeared after drinking the potion to gain eternal life. Hou Yi always waits for his wife every 15th of the 8th month while eating mooncakes under the full moon.
Often the traditional moon cakes are sold at quite high prices. This is due to various factors, one of which is a special mold for mooncakes which is not cheap. In fact, the price of raw materials for mooncakes itself is very cheap and easy to find anywhere.
Homemade mooncakes are very expensive, although making them does not require a lot of capital. Because it’s time-consuming, intricately packaged, and so traditional it makes the price high, and people are willing to spend the money anyway. Packaging can be as complex as a heavy wooden box where each mooncake is individually encased in a round metal case. At Starbucks in China, mooncakes are sold in three-tiered boxes with separate drawers for each flavor, almost like a jewelry box, reports the Los Angeles Times.
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Mid Autumn Festival Falls in Late Summer
The earliest recorded Autumn Festival fell on September 8, when Southern China entered the end of summer; so it can be said that even autumn is not yet over!
The Autumn Festival is no later than October 6, when the Southern China region has just entered the beginning of autumn. It is only in Northern China, where the summers are short and the winters are long, which makes this festival apt to be called according to the season.
The Autumn Festival is always celebrated in the middle of the 8th month, which is the 15th of the lunar calendar. Months 7, 8, 9 of the lunar calendar are classified as autumn. So it is more accurately called the “mid-autumn lunar calendar” festival.
Mid Autumn Festival Moon
In Chinese society’s belief, a perfectly round full moon symbolizes “togetherness”. That is why the month of family reunion together is a very special thing in Chinese culture. Every year the Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar which is a “full moon day”.
The full moon on the eve of the Autumn Festival is considered the brightest and most perfect luminous full moon of the year. This festival also has a background in the origin of worshiping the moon.
Mid Autumn Festival Was Once the Biggest Festival in China
In the past, migrant workers in China always tried to return home to welcome the Chinese New Year and the Autumn Festival. But now, many are only going home for years. This is in line with the decreasing interest of modern society towards traditional celebrations. Now the Autumn Festival ranks third in the allocation of national holidays, next to Labor Day and three other holidays.
The Full Moon Shines the Brightest Light during the Mid Autumn Festival
That the moon emits the brightest light in autumn, this belief is true. Because in that season the sky is usually cloudless. Actually, the Autumn Festival doesn’t always take place on a full moon night.
This fact contradicts the modern view. The Chinese lunar calendar is not exactly 100% according to the lunar cycle. But the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar is always between 2 days of a full moon night.