Jhe Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated by millions of people across East Asia on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. This means that the date of the festival changes every year in the Gregorian calendar, but it is always at the time of the harvest moon. This year, the Mid-Autumn Festival falls on September 10.
Certain activities, such as moon gazing and lantern display, are popular in several Asian countries, as is the symbol of a rabbit on the moon. But there are also many local traditions
Here is an overview of how the festival is celebrated:
Illuminated lanterns are seen at Lee Tung Street ahead of the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival on September 6, 2022 in Hong Kong, China.
Li Zhihua/China News Service via Getty Images
The legend of Chang’e and his ascent to the moon has long been associated with China’s Mid-Autumn Festival.
Mythology says that in ancient times the Earth had 10 suns, which burned the world. A famous archer named Hou Yi fired his bow and shot down nine of the suns, saving mankind. For his heroic deed, the gods gave him the Immortality Pill, which he gave to his wife Chang’e for safekeeping. However, one of his followers, Peng Meng, attempted to steal the pill while Hou Yi was out hunting, so Chang’e swallowed it to keep it from falling into Peng Meng’s hands. She became immortal and floated to the moon, where she has lived ever since. Besides Chang’e, the moon also has another resident: the Jade Rabbit.
In Chinese tradition, the full moon symbolizes family reunion, so mid-autumn is a holiday to be celebrated at home. People admire the moon and eat mooncakes, which are stuffed with a variety of fillings, from the traditional salted egg yolk and lotus paste to contemporary versions with fillings of ice cream, fruit and cream English.
A staff member organizes mooncakes in a supermarket ahead of the Mid-Autumn Festival, September 5, 2022, Handan, Hebei province, China.
VCG/VCG via Getty Images
Other foods eaten during the festival include taro (because its name in many Chinese dialects is a homonym for “good fortune comes”) and hairy crab, a seasonal delicacy.
Lanterns play an important role in the festivities. These days, the candle-lit paper lanterns of yesteryear are rarely seen. Most kids carry the battery-operated variety. Single-use glow sticks are also common, prompting calls from environmentalists to limit their use.
Some regions have specific Moon Festival customs. In Zhejiang Province in eastern China, the Qiantang River Tidal Bore attracts many visitors. In Hunan Province, women of the Dong ethnic group usually steal vegetables, because according to legend, the moon goddess will pour “sweet dew” on them and whoever eats them will be healthy and happy.
South Koreans celebrate Chuseokalso known as hangawi, right now. It is one of the biggest and most important parties in the country, alongside Seoulor lunar new year.
Many return to their hometowns to celebrate with large family gatherings and hold memorial services, called charye, for their ancestors. The day before and the day after are also public holidays in South Korea, giving people time to return home. This year, C.huseok is observed from September 9 to 12.
South Koreans traveling for the Chuseok holiday are seen at the Incheon International Airport in Incheon, South Korea, September 8, 2022.
SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
At festive gatherings, Koreans eat songpyeon, a half-moon shaped rice cake filled with a semi-sweet filling, as well as seasonal fruits and vegetables such as persimmons and chestnuts. They also enjoy a host of entertainment, including the ganggangsullae, a traditional circle dance. And of course, in the evening, people go out to admire the full moon where they watch for the moon rabbit, or daltokki. The creature would be visible on the lunar surface, busy making rice cakes.
The Japanese celebrate Tsukimi, which translates to “looking at the moon”. Like the Koreans, they try to spot the moon rabbit, called tsuki no usagi in Japanese, as the animal performs its festive task of preparing the rice cakes known as mochi.
The festivities are said to date back to the Japanese Nara period (710-794). In the following Heian era (794-1185), Tsukimi was popular among aristocrats. Moon-viewing parties, frequently held on boats, included drinking, listening to music, and composing poetry. In the Edo period (1603-1868), the tradition was widely enjoyed by the public.
In this file photo from September 19, 2013, a dancer in Osaka, Japan, performs as part of the Sumiyoshi Moon Ritual, held at every Mid-Autumn Festival.
Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images
Traditionally, tsukimi is marked by adorning the house with pampas grass, to represent a bountiful harvest. Festive snacks include tsukimi-dango, a round rice dumpling symbolizing health and happiness, and seasonal produce such as chestnuts and pumpkin. Eggs are also eaten, as their oval whiteness is felt to be reminiscent of the full moon. Even fast food brands are getting in on the action by adding eggs to burgers.
The Mid-Autumn Festival in Vietnam is called Tet Trung Game and is also known as Tet Thieu Nhior Children’s Festival.
A popular tale related to the festival is that of a lumberjack named Chu Cuoi, who flew with a magic banyan tree to the moon. It is said that Cuoi can be seen under the tree on the face of the full moon. During the party, children holding lanterns – believed to guide Cuoi on his return to earth – spill out into the streets and watch the lion dances.
Visitors pose for photos with the costumed Monkey King from Chinese mythology on September 26, 2020 in Hanoi, Vietnam. The Mid-Autumn Festival is the occasion for a children’s evening and a family reunion
Linh Pham/Getty Images
Family brand Tet Trung Game by placing cakes and trays of fruit, symbolizing filial piety, in front of ancestral altars in their homes. Mooncakes are also a staple in Vietnam and come in two types: banh nuong (baked) and banh deo (soft crust).
About three-quarters of Singaporeans are of Chinese descent, so many Mid-Autumn Festival customs and traditions from China are also observed in Singapore.
In the past, celebrations centered on Chinatown, with goldfish and star-shaped lanterns hanging from shops on Temple Street and Smith Street. Traditional bakeries offered mooncakes.
This photo from September 7, 2022 shows Mid-Autumn Festival decorations set up in Singapore’s Chinatown.
Then Chih Wey/Xinhua via Getty Images
These days, Singaporeans celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival with extravagant lantern displays held across the city-state at venues such as Gardens by the Bay. Chinatown celebrations are also on a grander scale. The neighborhood transforms into a bustling bazaar, with pop-up stalls selling decorative ornaments and festive snacks. There are also lantern painting competitions and live performances.
Moon gazing is always a big part of the festival, with the beach being a popular location for the activity.
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