What is the Mid-Autumn Festival?
Ever seen traditional celebrations where you got the chance to eat decadent mooncakes and lanterns being lit, carried, and displayed? That is the Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival or Mooncake Festival which is a traditional celebration in Chinese culture. It has a rich history that dates back way over 3,000 years from 1046 BC and is usually held on the 15th day of the 8th month in the Chinese Lunar calendar.
The Legend of Chang’e
Central to the history of the Mid-Autumn Festival is Chang’e, the Chinese goddess of the Moon. Legend has it that Chang’e, who was the wife of a legendary archer named Hou Yi, stole her husband’s immortality elixir, fled thereafter, and floated up to the moon for the rest of time. Hou Yi, devastated and heartbroken, would thereafter annually make offerings to the moon, whom he believed was one with Chang’e. Others followed and practiced as Hou Yi did, hence, giving birth to the tradition we know today as the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Symbolism of the Mid-Autumn Festival
While there are variations in the traditions and customs of Chinese cultures across the globe, the festival celebrates three fundamental concepts in common.
The first is to strengthen familial ties and piety. Family and friends come together during this joyous and significant occasion, akin to the family reunions we see during the Chinese Lunar New Year.
Secondly, the festival serves as a form of thanksgiving. People would give thanks for abundance and for harmonious unions.
Lastly, people pray for good fortune – babies, a loving partner, beauty, longevity, and a blessed future ahead.
Reuniting, Gifting, Feasting, Moongazing, and Colourful Lanterns
There is a wide variety of activities during this festive period keeping the festive mood and spirits up. People would reunite with their families, gifting mooncakes, tea or gift baskets and feasting together.
The occasion centres around eating the quintessential delicacy of the festival – the mooncakes. They symbolise togetherness and longevity. They are sweet pastries made up of lotus seed paste with a salted duck egg yolk nested in the middle of the mooncake. In contemporary Chinese culture, the mooncakes can be found in a range of flavours - from chocolate to durian flavours – and types – from ice cream mooncakes to snow skin ones.
Aside from eating mooncakes, people would be lighting, hanging, and displaying colourful lanterns of all shapes and sizes. It symbolises beacons that would light up people’s paths to prosperity and good fortune.
Not forgetting moon gazing, the traditional way to mark the festival. It is a symbol of completeness and unity, as people take the time to admire the moon with their loved ones.
These are the few most popular activities amongst others.
Family First, Always
The values of unity, togetherness, love, and blessings for the future will forever be etched in the spirit of the Mid-Autumn Festival. Hold these to heart and remember to fully immerse yourselves in this joyous occasion as you reunite with your beloved families.
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