Mid-Autumn Festival


Today (14th Sep, Sun) is the Mid-autumn festival, aka the Mooncake festival, because it’s the only time mooncakes are sold in the market. The actual date falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month of the Chinese calendar and is usually around September month in the Gregorian calendar, and this year it happens to fall on a Sunday.
Families usually celebrate this day eating mooncakes, pomelos and drinking chinese tea while gazing at the moon believing that there’s a moon fairy living in the moon with a jade rabbit accompanying her.

The legend goes that Chang-er accidentally swallowed the elixir of life which belonged to her husband Hou-yi, and her body started becoming light and flew up into the sky. The pill was given to the husband as a reward for his shooting down the scorching 9 sun relieving the people’s sufferings in the field. So, it’s said that every full moon, when you look at the moon, you’ll see the shadow of a woman that looked like Chang-er. And the round mooncakes eaten are symbolic of the moon which is especially round & bright on this day, meaning family unity and closeness. Pomelos are also eaten because the Chinese word “you” 柚 sounds like 保佑bao you (protection), so expressing the hope that the moon fairy will give them protection this day.

If you find this story just a mythology, what about the historical fact which sounds more like the actual reason for eating mooncakes and celebrating the festival.

According to history, the Mid-Autumn Festival commemorates an uprising in China against the Mongol rulers of the Yuan Dynasty. As group gatherings were banned, it was impossible to make plans for a rebellion. Noting that the Mongolians did not eat mooncakes, Liu Bowen (劉伯溫) of the Chekiang Province (浙江省), advisor to the Chinese rebel leader Zhu Yuanzhang (朱元璋), came up with the idea of timing the rebellion to coincide with the Mid-Autumn Festival. He sought permission to distribute thousands of mooncakes to the Chinese residents in the city to bless the longevity of the Mongol emperor. Inside each cake, however, was hidden a piece of paper with the message, “Kill the Mongols on the 15th day of the 8th moon” (八月十五殺韃子). On the night of the Moon Festival, the rebels successfully attacked and overthrew the government. What followed was the establishment of the Ming Dynasty, and Zhu became the first Ming emperor. Henceforth, the Mid-Autumn Festival was celebrated with mooncakes on a national level.

I remembered a saying that when you look at the moon, you are not supposed to point at it; else the next morning when you wake up, you’ll find your ear chipped away at the side. Do you believe in this? Any one braves enough to try this out and tell me whether his ear is still intact the next morning?

How do you celebrate this day? To me it’s just like another normal day and if it falls on a weekday it will still be a working day. And I don’t really fancy mooncakes, which are made from dough with lotus seed paste and salted duck egg yolks inside. Eating too much is also fattening, that’s why they are cut into small wedges, and eat it with Chinese tea. Kids will be happiest, as the parents will buy them lanterns to carry at the playground. During my time, the lantern used to be made of paper, and it gets burnt off easily. Lanterns these days are all battery operated, and it comes in different shapes & sizes like cartoon characters or animals. Guessed what is important is the family reunion and gathering with loved ones; and children can carry their lanterns around the neighborhood or garden accompanied by their parents.


2 Responses

  1. This was really interesting. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 🙂

  2. Thanks for dropping by and leaving a note 😀

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