Mid-Autumn Festival also known as the Lantern or Mooncake festival falls on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calender. This year it falls on the 12th September of the Western calender. Mid-Autumn festival is the second most important event after the Lunar New Year. During this time, family members gather to enjoy mooncake whilst appreciating the moon, which is the brightest and fullest during this time if the year. Kids ( and adults) will light and carry paper lanterns and show off their prized possession.
There are two popular myths on how Mid-Autumn Festival came about. The first is about the reunion of Chang E and Hou Yi, the archer who under the commands of the Emperor of China, shot down 9 suns which caused tremendous suffering to the people. As a reward, the Emperor of China presented him with an elixir. However, his wife, Chang E, found the pill and swallowed it. She was banished to the moon as a result, and was separated from her husband forever. Once a year, on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calender, Hou Yi will visits his wife. That is why the moon is at the fullest and most beautiful on this night. Legend says that her beauty is the greatest on this day and it is common for people to claim that they see her image during the full moon. From then on, people will light lanterns during the festival to commemorate the time when the earth was shone upon by 10 suns.
The second myth is about overthrowing the Mongol invaders. During the Yuan Dynasty, China was ruled by the Mongolians. The Chinese suffered under the Mongols and decided to coordinate a rebellion without being discovered during the Moon festival. To spread the message about the rebellion, the Chinese leaders embedded messages about the outline of the attack in the mooncakes. On the day of the Moon festival, the Chinese broke open the moon cake, read the messages and together with a united voice and action, overthrew the Mongols on this fateful day. What followed was the establishment of the Ming Dynasty. Today, mooncakes are eaten to remember the rebellion.
For this year, the mooncake bug has gotten into me. The idea of homemade mooncake intrigued me and I’m determined to make them this year. Although the production is labor intensive but if it’s meant for your loved ones, it is all worth it. So stay tune for my post on mooncake making and watch out for the silhouette of Chang E dancing in the moon! 😉