The Mid-Autumn Festival (zhōng qiū jié 中秋节), also known as the Moon Festival, is a popular harvest festival celebrated by Chinese people and Vietnamese (yuè nán rén 越南人) people (even though they celebrate it differently), dating back over 3,000 years to moon worship in China"s Shang Dynasty (shāng cháo 商朝).It was first called Zhongqiu Jie in Zhou Dynasty (zhōy cháo 周朝). In Malaysia (mǎ lái xī yà 马来西亚) and Singapore (xīn jiā pō 新加坡), it is also sometimes referred to as the Lantern Festival or Mooncake Festival.
Legend about Mid-Autumn Festival
It is said that the earth once had ten suns circling over it, each taking turn to illuminate the earth. One day, however, all ten suns appeared together, scorching the earth with their heat. Houyi (hòu yì 后羿), a strong and tyrannical archer, saved the earth by shooting down nine of the suns. He eventually became King, but grew to become a despot (bào jūn 暴君).
One day, Houyi stole the elixir (xiān dān 仙丹) from a goddess. However, his beautiful wife, Chang"e (cháng é 嫦娥), drank it so as to save the people from her husband’s tyrannical rule. After drinking it, she found herself floating, and flew to the moon. Houyi loved his divinely beautiful wife so much, he did not shoot down the moon. Chang"e flew to the moon grabbing a rabbit to keep her company. So the Chinese say that if you look up at the moon to this day you can sometimes see a rabbit making moon cakes.
Customs in Mid-Autumn Festival
The Mid-Autumn Festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, which is usually around mid or late September in the Gregorian calendar. It is a date that parallels the autumn and spring equinoxes (chūn fēn 春分) of the solar calendar, when the moon is supposedly at its fullest and roundest. The traditional food of this festival is the mooncake, of which there are many different varieties.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the two most important holidays in Chinese calendar, the other being the Chinese New Year, and is a legal holiday in several countries. Farmers celebrate the end of the summer harvest season on this day. Traditionally, on Mid-Autumn Day, Chinese family members and friends will get together to admire the bright mid-autumn harvest moon, and eat moon cakes (yuè bǐng 月饼) and pomeloes (yòu zi 柚子) together. Accompanying the celebration, there are additional cultural or regional customs, such as eating moon cakes outside under the moon, carrying brightly lit lanterns, lighting lanterns on towers, floating sky lanterns, burning incense (fén xiāng 焚香) in reverence to deities including Chang"e, planting Mid-Autumn trees (shù zhōng qiū 树中秋), collecting dandelion leaves and distributing them evenly among family members and Fire Dragon Dances (wǔ huǒ lóng 舞火龙).
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