Chinese Festival

Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival: Date, History, Legend and Customs

The Mid-Autumn Festival is a harvest festival held on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. It is the second grandest festival in China after the Chinese New Year. It takes its name from the fact that it is always celebrated in the middle of the autumn season. As the moon is at its roundest and brightest on the 15th day of the 8th month, this festival is also named the Mooncake Festival.

Mid-Autumn Festival in 2017

2017 Mid-Autumn Festival is on October 4th. It Falls within the National Day holiday (Oct. 1 – 7), which hence will prolong this holiday to Oct. 8. It is a peak time to travel during a year.

History and Origins of Mid-Autumn Festival

In ancient times, people believed that the movement of the moon is related to the changes of the seasons and agricultural production. To show their sincere gratitude, they usually offered a sacrifice to the moon on autumn days. This tradition could be traced back to the Zhou Dynasty (1046 – 256 BC) when it was more often practiced by the royal class. At that time, it hadn’t been set as a fixed festival yet. Later in the Sui (581 – 618 AD) and Tang (618 – 907 AD) dynasties, social prosperity inspired the custom of appreciating the moon on the moon sacrifice ceremony day among common people. The people expressed their faith more liberally than the royal class. So August 15th of the Chinese lunar calendar was set as a fixed festival in the Tang Dynasty. By the time of the Northern Song Dynasty (960 – 1127 AD), Mid-Autumn Festival had already become a widely celebrated folk festival. 

Mid Autumn Festival Story

The most popular legend about the Mid-Autumn Festival is the story of Chang E and Hou Yi. Chang E and Hou Yi are a couple who deeply love each other. It was said that there were ten suns in the sky and people suffered. Hou Yi used his power to shot down nine suns, which made him famous around. Then a man, named Peng Meng, came to learn skills from Hou Yi. One day, Hou Yi got a magic pill which could make him immortal. But he loved his wife so much, hence he give up eating it, and let Chang E keep it. When Peng Meng knew it, he threatened Chang E to give him the pill during the time when Hou Yi went out. To protect the bad guy from getting the pill, Chang E ate it and then flew to the heaven. To express his missing to his wife, Hou Yi put her favourite food on the table. And people there started following this method to commemorate Change E as well. In addition to the romantic legend Chang E Flying to the Moon mentioned above, there are many other legends and stories related to this grand festival including Jade Rabbit Pounding Medicine, Wu Gang Chopping Laurel Tree, and Zhu Yuanzhang and the Moon Cake Uprising.

Customs of Moon Festival

On the festival day, family members gather to offer sacrifice to the moon, appreciate the bright full moon, eat moon cakes. In addition, there are some other customs like playing lanterns, and dragon and lion dances in some regions. The unique customs of ethnic minorities are interesting as well, such as “chasing the moon” of Mongolians, and “steal vegetables or fruits” of the Dong people.

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