Mid-Autumn Festival The Mid-Autumn Festival occurs every year on the fifteenth day of the eighth month. This date is in respect to the lunar calendar which is used by the Chinese. In the Gregorian calendar, used in America, this day would be approximately the fifteenth of September. On this day, the moon is supposed to be at its fullest and brightest of the year. The whole family eats out or in their yards to celebrate and watch the full moon. Children play with paper lanterns and the same lanterns are hung outside the front doors of buildings, such as houses and restaurants.
Mooncakes are eaten and Chinese tea is usually used to wash it down. The name, mooncake, is self-explanatory. It is a round cake, in the shape of a moon. The ingredients of the cake consist of lotus seeds, made into a sort of paste. The paste is surrounded by a crust, which usually has four Chinese characters imprinted on the top.
These characters either tell the type of mooncake it is (i.e. regular, lotus with egg yolk), the name of the store it was bought from, or just simply says mooncake. The origin of the mooncake is in China, during the Sang Dynasty. The Han people were conquered by the Mongolians and named the new dynasty Yuan. The Han people did not like living under Mongolian rule.
Therefore, they wanted to rebel and retake China. However, the Mongolians had taken this into consideration and did not allow the people to communicate (especially public gatherings) or to possess sharp, pointed weaponry. Thus, the people had to find a way of communicating secretly. One group of men thought up the idea of placing a piece of paper with the date of the rebellion inside little cakes, which they would sell to the people, who would read the paper and find out the date. To gain permission from the Mongolian soldiers to sell the cakes, they told them that the cakes were a sort of offering to the gods.
They said that they would pray that the Mongolian emperor could have eternal life. The gullible soldiers quickly agreed. Everyone received the cakes and the rebellion date was set for the fifteenth day of the eighth month. Since the Mongolians could not read Chinese, they did not know of the rebellion, were caught by surprise, and defeated. From then on, the fifteenth day of the eighth month was known as the day of the Mid-Autumn Festival to celebrate the day of the rebellion.
Many myths are formed about holidays. One which goes with this holiday is about a time when the world had ten suns and the earth was hot and dry. Nothing could survive. A hero stepped forward and used nine arrows to shoot down nine of the suns. He was crowned king and married a beautiful wife.
Within years of his reign, he became selfish and greedy, a dictator. He wanted to live forever and make the people suffer. Therefore, he mixed a powerful potion and made a pill which, when eaten, would give the person eternal life. His wife found him out and stole the pill. To keep her husband from eating it, she ate it herself.
However, after she ate it, she felt her body get lighter and lighter until she was floating. She kept rising higher and higher until she reached the moon, where she lives until this day. There are many variations of this story, such as the bringing of a rabbit with her because the gods wanted to reward her bravery by giving her company for her loneliness. Some people say that they can sometimes see a woman in the moon with a rabbit and a tree (another variation).