The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, or in Chinese, Zhongqiu Jie (traditional Chinese: ¤¤¬î¸`), is a popular harvest festival celebrated by Chinese people and Vietnamese people (even though they celebrate it differently), dating back over 3,000 years to moon worship in China's Shang Dynasty. It was first called Zhongqiu Jie (literally "Mid-Autumn Festival") in the Zhou Dynasty. The Mid-Autumn Festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, which is usually around mid or late September in the Gregorian calendar. It is a date that parallels the autumn and spring Equinoxes of the solar calendar. The traditional food of this festival is the mooncake, of which there are many different varieties.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the two most important holidays in the Chinese calendar, the other being the Chinese New Year, and is a legal holiday in several countries. Farmers celebrate the end of the summer harvesting season on this date. Traditionally, on this day, Chinese family members and friends will gather to admire the bright mid-autumn harvest moon, and eat moon cakes and pomeloes together. Accompanying the celebration, there are additional cultural or regional customs, such as:
Stories of the Mid-Autumn Festival
- Eating moon cakes outside under the moon
- Putting pomelo rinds on one's head
- Carrying brightly lit lanterns, lighting lanterns on towers, floating sky lanterns
- Burning incense in reverence to deities including Chang'e (¹ß®Z)
- Planting Mid-Autumn trees
- Collecting dandelion leaves and distributing them evenly among family members
- Breaking culture barriers
Houyi and Chang'e
While Westerners may talk about the "man on the moon", the Chinese talk about the "woman on the moon". The story of the fateful night when Chang'e was lifted up to the moon, familiar to most Chinese citizens, is a favorite subject of poets. Unlike many lunar deities in other cultures who personify the moon, Chang'e lives in the moon. Tradition places Houyi and Chang'e around 2170 BC, in the reign of the legendary Emperor Yao, shortly after that of Huang Di.
The Hare - Jade Rabbit
According to tradition, the Jade Rabbit pounds medicine, together with the lady, Chang'er, for the gods. Others say that the Jade Rabbit is a shape, assumed by Chang'e herself. You may find that the dark areas to the top of the full moon may be construed as the figure of a rabbit. The animal's ears point to the upper right, while at the left are two large circular areas, representing its head and body.In this legend, three fairy sages transformed themselves into pitiful old men, and begged for food from a fox, a monkey, and a hare. The fox and the monkey both had food to give to the old men, but the hare, empty-handed, jumped into a blazing fire to offer his own flesh instead. The sages were so touched by the hare's sacrifice and act of kindness that they let him live in the Moon Palace, where he became the "Jade Rabbit".