Mid-Autumn Festival is a harvest festival, where family members gather together to eat moon cakes while observing the full moon and playing with lanterns. It is considered the second most important holiday tradition. The day is also known as the Moon Festival, as at that time of the year the moon is at its roundest and brightest. The festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in Lunisolar or Lunar Calendar, on the night of the full moon between early September to early October of the Gregorian calendar. August fifteenth in the lunar calendar is exactly in the middle of autumn, so that’s why is called the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Moon Cakes is one of the symbol traditions of Mid-Autumn Festival. People sacrifice moon cakes to the moon as an offering and eat them for celebration. In Chinese culture, a round shape symbolizes completeness and unity. The Moon Cakes are round, symbolizing the reunion of a family, so it is easy to understand how the eating of moon cakes under the round moon can express the yearning desire to see distant relatives and friends.
As Mid-Autumn Festival is also the Moon Festival, its legends are usually related to the moon. Here are two most popular ones and they are commonly told during the festival:
Chang’e Flying to the Moon
Long ago, there were ten suns in the sky and the extreme heat made people’s lives very difficult. They burnt all the plants on the earth and people were dying.
One day, a hero name Hou Yi, used his bow and arrows to shoot down nine of the ten suns. All the people on earth were saved.
One day, the queen of the heaven gave Hou Yi a bottle of elixir that could make Hou Yi ascend immediately to heaven and become an immortal and/or God. Hou Yi did want to become an immortal, but he wanted to stay with his beautiful and kind-hearted wife Chang’e more than becoming an immortal, so he didn’t drink the elixir and asked his wife Chang’e to keep it safe for him.
Hou Yi was becoming more and more famous after he shot down the nine suns and more and more men wanted Hou Yi to be their master. Hou Yi accepted most of them but not every student has good morals. Unfortunately, Fend Meng, one of his students, secretly saw Hou Yi give the potion to his wife. One day, Hou Yi went hunting with his students, Fend Meng pretended to be sick and stay home. When he makes sure Hou Yi had gone hunting, he went to Hou Yi’s house and tried to force Chang’e to give him the elixir. Chang’e knew she couldn’t defeat Fend Meng so she drank the elixir immediately. The elixir made her become an immortal/Goddess and fly higher and higher. Chang’e great love for her husband drew her towards the Moon, which is the nearest place to the earth on the heaven.
When Hou Yi realizes what happened to his wife, he was so grieved that he shouted Chang’e name to the sky. He was amazed to see a figure that looked just like his wife appear in the Moon. Then he took the food liked Chang’e liked to an altar and offered it as a sacrifice for her. From then on, people often pray to Chang’e for fortune and safety.
The Jade Rabbit
One day, three immortals reincarnated themselves into three poor old people that begged for food. They asked a fox, a monkey, and a rabbit to find some food for them respectively. The fox and monkey both gave food to the immortals while the rabbit got nothing. The rabbit felt very sorry for the three immortals. It then said to the immortals: “you can eat me” and jumped into the fire. The three immortals were deeply moved by the rabbit. They decided to send it to the moon to become an immortal and give the rabbit the title of “Jade Rabbit” and let him accompany Chang’e in the Moon Palace and make immortal medicine for those living in the heaven.
Submitted by Xin Ru Pan