News and Travel Editor
Happy Mid-Autumn Festival! You may have also heard it referred to as the ‘Moon’ Festival, or maybe even the Lantern Festival. So what is it, and how is it celebrated?
- Mid-Autumn Festival is always celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar, when the moon is farthest from the earth and appears bright and completely round.
- This festival has been celebrated for over 3,500 years – and in China, people take a holiday to spend it with their families.
- Some Chinese people believe that the Mid-Autumn Festival is the perfect time to find a partner, as the moon acts as matchmaker!
- Some couples wanting to have children bathe in the moonlight in the hope that the moon will bring them a “good harvest”.
- Traditionally, people usually give Moon cakes as gifts. Find out more below:
- Mooncakes are round as the shape symbolises eternity.
- Mooncakes represent long life and happiness, to receive one is to be sent wishes for your success and good health.
- They have different fillings depending on where in China you are. This can include: lotus seed paste, sweet bean paste, nuts and seeds, egg yolks and jujube paste
- Usually, the Chinese character on the top of the Mooncake explains what type of filling is inside.
- Mooncakes should always be served with a strong cup of hot tea. Enjoy! (Want to make your own at home? Check out this recipe from Omnivore’s Kitchen)
Origins of Mooncakes
There are many different stories that explain the significance of Mooncakes to the Mid-Autumn festival. One story goes that secret letters were hid inside Mooncakes telling the Han Chinese to rebel against Mongol Rule on the day of Mid-Autumn festival. Another popular belief is that Mooncakes are made and consumed as an offering to the Moon Goddess Chang’e. But, who is Chang’e? Time to settle in for a story.
The Legend of Chang’e and Houyi
The legend of Chang’e dates back even further than the Yuan dynasty, with early versions of the story being having been found as early as the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046BC)
There are several versions of the story of Chang’e. In this version, Chang’e lived in heaven with her archer husband, Houyi. They were both immortal. Heaven was ruled by the Jade Emperor who had 10 sons.
The story goes that one day, the Jade Emperor’s sons transformed into ten suns, scorching the Earth and killing all the plants and wildlife.
The Jade Emperor summoned Houyi, the archer, to stop his sons and save the Earth. Houyi shot down nine of the Jade Emperor’s sons, leaving just one as the sun.
The Jade Emperor wanted to punish Houyi for killing nine of his sons, so banished Houyi and Chang’e to live as mortals on Earth.
Chang’e was devastated to have lost her immortality. As a result, Houyi set out on a quest to find something to restore it called the Elixir of Immortality. He succeeded!
In one version of the story, Chang’e consumes the elixir to prevent Houyi’s evil apprentice Feng Meng from getting hold of it. In another version, she finds the elixir and consumes it by accident.
The stories end the same way. Chang’e becomes immortal and flies to the moon where she lives alone except for a jade rabbit, Tuye.
She and Houyi are separated forever across the galaxy in the ultimate long distance
relationship. Happily, in some versions of the story, Houyi can cross the milky way and get closer to Chang’e at Mid-Autumn festival. Eat your heart out, Romeo and Juliet, these two are the literal star-crossed lovers.
To celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival, we sent out Mooncakes to some of our favourite bloggers.
Check out Amanda Bootes insightful and entertaining take on the festival on her blog!