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Mid-Autumn Festival - What Is It All About?

The Mid-Autumn Festival is coming!

What is the Mid-Autumn Festival?
Even though it’s that time of year when things get wetter, colder, darker and frowny-er, at least we have something to look forward to, (other than abandoned umbrellas and the smell of damp.)
The Mid-Autumn Festival takes place on the 15th of the 8th month in the Chinese Luna Calendar, which is September 19th this year. It takes its name from the fact that it is always celebrated in the middle of autumn in the Far East.

Origins and development
In ancient China, the movement of the moon is associated with the changes of the seasons and agricultural production. Mid-Autumn Festival celebrators express their thanks to the moon for the harvest it brings. The Chinese have been celebrating it since Shang Dynasty (1600 BC–1046 BC). Nowadays it is also celebrated in Vietnam and the Philippines.

Legend
One of the most popular legends associated with Mid-Autumn Festival is about Hou Yi and Chang’e:
Once upon a time in ancient China, there were ten suns shining in the sky, causing tremendous disasters. To save the people of China, the master archer, Hou Yi, shot down all but one of the ten suns.

As a reward, Hou Yi was given a pill, which could make him immortal. However, he did not wish to be immortal without his wife, Chang’e and he stored the pill in a secret place. Feng Meng, a student of Hou yi’s, tried to force Chang’e to give him the pill while Hou Yi was away. Knowing the evilness of Feng Meng and being unable to fight against it, Chang’e swallowed the pill herself, and she flew up into the moon and became immortal.

Missing his beloved wife, Hou Yi burned incense and food offerings on full moon days, which is when he could apparently spot his wife on the moon more clearly. This practice eventually spread across China, as people wanted to thank Hou Yi, and worship the moon goddess for a great future. Mid-Autumn Festival also became an important day for families to come together.

Chane'e The Moon Goddess
Painting of Chang’e, the moon goddess

Lanterns
It is a tradition for Chinese Lanterns to be lit in celebration and released into the sky. Some lanterns even have riddles written on them for others to guess. There are also display lanterns set up by local council.

This year, Hong Kong will launch a gigantic lantern using 7000 recycling water bottles with LED lights inside.

Hong Kong Giant Lantern
Photo from Ta Kung Pao, Hong Kong

Mooncakes
The traditional snacks for Mid-Autumn festival are Mooncakes. Like dumplings on Chinese New Year, Mooncakes are eaten for Mid-Autumn Festival.

To ensure you're in the know with Mooncakes, take a look at our guide >

Thank you to:

Bixi Wang : collaborator | mathematician | Cambridge University student

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