Yesterday was the 15th day of the eighth month on our Chinese calendar. It’s the day we celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival also known as the Chinese Moon Festival. It’s one of the important holidays we celebrate. The other two are the Spring Festival and Lunar New Year.
We celebrate the holiday much like how we celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s a day of family reunion. We gather to together to celebrate over dinner, but festivities include admiring the moon.
My Sister-in-law and her Sister made a wonderful dinner. Delicious! Our three families celebrated together this year. Unfortunately, my Sister-in-law’s younger sister couldn’t join us because she and her family live a little further away. Overall, we had a great time talking and just hanging out. The kids had fun. We lit lanterns, went out to look at the full moon for a little bit and they played together. Reminded me of my childhood when we lit lanterns and watched the moon together with my uncles, aunts, grandma, etc. It’s always more festive when there are more people celebrating together.
It was my lil man’s first time celebrating as we didn’t do a big celebration last year. He loved the colorful lanterns and the lights. Here are some photos of our lanterns.
The Legend of Chang’e and Hou yi
There are a several versions why we celebrate this day, but one legend told to children is one of Hou Yi and is his wife Chang’e. It’s told that long ago there were once 10 suns each rotating to travel around the sky. One day all 10 suns appeared at the same time and burned much of the lands and its crops. Hou Yi was an archer who decided to shoot down nine of the suns one day and became a hero.
It’s said that the Queen Mother of the West (the Jade Emperors wife) gave a pill or elixir of immortality to Hou Yi. He had great trust in his wife, Chang’e, and so gave the elixir to her for safe keeping. Peng Meng, one of Hou Yi’s apprentices, found out about the elixir and decided to steal it one day while Hou Yi was away. He forced Chang’e to give him the elixir. Knowing she couldn’t fight him and not wanting to give the elixir to him, she swallowed the elixir and instantly floated to the sky. She chose to stay on the moon to be closest to her husband as they had a deep love for each other. When Hou Yi found out what happened, he was very saddened and went to their backyard to call for his wife. He noticed the moon was brighter than normal and saw a moving figure he recognized as Chang’e. He set up a table in their garden with Chang’e’s favorite snacks and fruits and gazed at the moon as a way to spend time with her each year. As more people heard the news about Chang’e and how she became immortal, they too set up tables of snacks and fruits to pray for her and for good fortune and safety. They say this is the reason the holiday has also been a holiday of romance and match making.
Gazing at the Moon
As part of the tradition of this holiday, we gaze at the moon. Admire it’s beauty. This tradition dates back as far as 500 BC. Those people of great means would host large celebrations in their courtyards inviting people into their homes to welcome the full moon. They would serve mooncake and other treats while listening to music.
Here’s a photo of us with the full moon.
Mooncakes are typically round and symbolize family and the unity within. It’s a delicacy made of lotus paste inside which is typically sweet. To symbolize the full moon, they are made with the yolk of a salted egg in the middle. Some have double yolks which are more expensive. We usually drink tea when we have mooncake to balance the taste.
Here are our mooncakes. The first set is of a lotus paste cake. The second set was shipped to us by my in-laws and has coconut with egg yolk – my hubs favorite.
Here are some websites about the Mid-Autumn Festival and also other versions of the story of Hou Yi and his wife Chang’e. There’s also some explanations for how different Chinese sub-cultures celebrate this holiday and also how the Vietnamese celebrate as well.
- Wikipedia has a post dedicated to the variety of mooncakes
Do you celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival? We’d love to hear how your family celebrates and what you love about this holiday. Leave us a comment to share what you do.