About China

Mid-Autumn Festival 2016

By CTUAS | 2016-09-07

China’s Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month (in September or October). Mid-Autumn Festival 2016 is on September 15.

For many Chinese, it is still the second most important festival after Chinese New Year, and it means family reunion and peace.The festival is celebrated when the moon is believed to be the biggest and fullest. To the Chinese, a full moon is a symbol of prosperity, happiness, and family reunion.

History and Legend

In the ancient past, there was a hero named Hou Yi who was excellent at archery. His wife was Chang'e. One year, the ten suns rose in the sky together, causing great disaster to people. Yi shot down nine of the suns and left only one to provide light.

An immortal admired Yi and sent him the elixir of immortality. Yi did not want to leave Chang'e and be immortal without her, so he let Chang'e keep the elixir. But Peng Meng, one of his apprentices, knew this secret. So, on the fifteenth of August in the lunar calendar, when Yi went hunting, Peng Meng broke into Yi's house and forced Chang'e to give the elixir to him. Chang'e refused to do so. Instead, she swallowed it and flew into the sky. Since she loved very much her husband and hoped to live nearby, she chose the moon for her residence.

When Yi came back and learned what had happened, he felt so sad that he displayed the fruits and cakes Chang'e liked in the yard and gave sacrifices to his wife. People soon learned about these activities, and since they also were sympathetic to Chang'e they participated in these sacrifices with Yi.

Customs of Mid-autumn Festival

1. Eating Mooncakes — The Most Representative Tradition

A mooncake is a traditional Chinese pastry. It is made from wheat flour and sweet stuffing, such as sugar and lotus seed powder. It’s a symbol of family reunion, and the cake is traditionally cut into pieces that equal the number of people in the family.

Eating mooncakes is the most common and representative tradition of the day. In ordinary times, people won’t buy or eat mooncakes but during the Mid-Autumn Festival everyone will have a mooncake to celebrate.

2. Appreciating the Moon — Symbol of Family Reunion

In Chinese beliefs, the full moon is the symbol for a family reunion. Many famous ancient poets wrote poems about the moon and expressed their homesickness. When people look at the moon, it reminds them of their families and homeland..

Nowadays, people still like appreciating the moon during the Mid-Autumn Festival in China. Chinese family members have dinner together in the evening of the Mid-Autumn Festival. After dinner, they may talk about their work, the children, and their future plans.

3. Making Colorful Lanterns — Children’s Favorite Activity

Making colorful lanterns is a happy activity between families and children. The lanterns have different shapes and can also resemble animals, plants, or flowers.

Children love making colorful lanterns. They make them in different shapes to be hung in trees or houses, or floated on rivers. Parks will also hang up colorful lanterns, which provide a beautiful view at night.

They also make Kongming lanterns, which can fly because the burning candles heat the air in the lantern. Children write good wishes on the lanterns and let them fly up into the sky.

Special Customs in different Cities

In Fujian Province

In Pu City, females must cross the Nanpu Bridge to pray for a long life. In Jianning, people light lanterns to pray to the moon for their babies. In Shanghang county, children have to get down on their knees when they worship the moon. In Long Yan, while eating moon cakes, parents will dig a small hole in the center of the cakes, which means that some secrets should be kept from children.

In Guangdong Province

In Chaoshan, women and children will worship the Moon. When the night comes, they will burn joss sticks in front of a table of fresh fruits as a sacrifice. At that night they will also eat taros. There are two reasons why people there eat this vegetable. One is that August is the best time to eat ripe taros, and the other comes from a story.

In 1279 the Mongols defeated the Southern Song Dynasty and formed the Yuan Dynasty, and they carried out their cruel domination over the Han Chinese. At that time, a well-known general called Ma Fa held out in Chaozhou to fight with Mongols. When he failed, most citizens were killed. Because the Chinese word for taros and Mongols were similar, from then on people eat taros to prove that they will always remember the pain. To eat the taro means to eat the heads of the Mongols.

In the south of Yangtze River valley

In Nanjing people will not just eat moon cakes, they will also eat another famous dish called Guihua Dark. This dish could only be cooked during the Mid-Autumn Day, because it is cooked with osmanthus flowers, which blossoms in August.

In Wuxi of Jiangsu province, people like to burn joss sticks to celebrate this special festival. The burned joss sticks are wrapped in tulle with beautiful paintings of Moon Palace or Chang'e.

In Ji'an County of Jiangxi province, peasants burn pottery jars with straws and vinegar so that the smell of the vinegar can spread all over the villages. In Xincheng County, people celebrate this festival by lighting oil lamps from the 11th day of the 8th lunar month to the 17th day.

In Sichuan province

People will prepare a lot of food like moon cakes, ducks, glutinous rice cakes, and rice dumplings. In some places, people light orange lamps, or ask children run in the streets with pomeloes decorated with burning incense in their hands. In Jiading, they worship the God of the Land and play some local dramas to celebrate this special day.

In the North

People of Qingyun County in Shangdong province worship the God of Land as well as their ancestors on that day. In Lu’an of Shanxi province, parents will invite their son-in-laws to have dinner with them. In Xixiang county of Shanxi province, men usually go boating or climb mountains together, while women will stay at home and prepare for the dinner. In Luochuan County, parents send gifts to their children's teachers to show their gratitude.

Though different places have different customs to celebrate this special day, people all have common wishes of reunion, happiness, safety, health and harvest.

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