The Mid-Autumn Festival - A Harvest of Love
When is the Moon Festival?
2013: September 19
2014: September 8
2015: September 27
2016: September 15
2017: October 4
Honoring the Harvest Moon
This year's Mid-Autumn Festival is on its way faster than you think! Picture it - new loves are springing up and commitments to lasting love are all around. Leaves are starting to fall, and the wind is cool, crisp, and refreshing. Autumn fruit baskets
are overflowing and vegetables are loaded in by the bushels, and the world is alight with abundance. What better time is there to celebrate love of all kinds than the Mid-Autumn Festival? Also known as the Moon Festival, this harvest celebration leaves no stone unturned. Dating back to the time of the Shang Dynasty, this Asian cultural celebration is the signal for the end of Harvest. Chinese and Vietnamese people gather together to enjoy the bounty of a new harvest with friends and family, to give thanks for the induction of new family members, and to pray for a future bountiful with love and family.
The Legend of Hou Yi and the Ten Suns
This famed festival has its roots in the ancient Chinese tradition of moon worship. The ancient Chinese believed that paying homage to the moon would rejuvenate them and their lands, and that with enough prayers, they could be made immortal. One of the legends from this tradition has it that long ago, ten suns rose into the sky all at once. The power of these suns caused untold horrors, and wrought havoc and disaster among the people of China. It is said that one man, Hou Yi rode valiantly out towards the suns. He was an acclaimed archer, and readily shot down nine of the ten suns. He chose to leave one remaining, so that it may light the earth alone. The legend continues to tell that a mortal, thankful that the tragedy was over, sent Hou Yi a bottled elixir of immortality.
Hou Yi did not want to live forever, for he had a wife. Chang'e with whom he was deeply in love. She could not also drink the elixir of immortality with him, so he chose to give it to her instead. One of Yi's apprentices was not happy with this decision. On August 15th, the apprentice broke into the house while Hou Yi was out hunting, and tried to force Chang'e to turn over the elixir to him. She refused, and to save her husband's life, she swallowed the elixir and flew to the moon so that she could remain close to the love of her life. Upon his return, Hou Yi was so heartbroken by this tragedy, that he laid all of Chang'e's favorite cakes and fruits out before the moon.
No matter what legend you choose to believe, the Moon Festival is definitely a tradition you won't soon forget. Hou Yi's act of laying out the cakes and fruits is one way moon cakes are said to have come into play. These little round cakes are delicious, and often decorated on their tops with intricate and beautiful patterns. Traditionally, families makes and serve their own moon cakes at home. It is said that the roundness of the cakes stand for unity and togetherness, love in a never ending loop, and the circle of life. In fact, one traditional ritual with the cakes is to have the eldest person of the family cut them and distribute them to the other members of the family. This sharing symbolizes not only respect for the elder, but also life, love, and togetherness, as well as the unity of a family.
There are many rituals that represent and unity of the family, but this day of celebration and harvest is not only for kin. Besides the sharing of moon cakes, there are a number of ways to celebrate. Family and friends gather together to exchange fruit baskets and gourmet food gifts
. Often, young couples decide to begin their courtship at this time, and it is considered a propitious time to celebrate love with marriages. Business owners and home owners decorate their buildings with glorious lanterns, share sweet cakes and foods with celebrating visitors, and gather together to share joy and prayers for future prosperity. Often, family members and friends will come from afar to share in the celebration and re-unite with loved ones. The Moon Festival is a joyous occasion of marriage, fertility, love, children, and reunion. For family, and those who pray for future family, the 15th day of the 8th lunar month is one of great importance.
Where is the Moon Festival celebrated?
The Moon Festival originated in China and is still widely celebrated there and in Taiwan, where it is an official public holiday, and the celebration has spread to a number of other nearby countries as well. In Vietnam, the Mid-Autumn Festival is widely considered the second most important holiday in the culture. In Hong Kong and Macau, people celebrate Moon Festival at night, and the following day is a public holiday. In the Philippines, the Moon Festival is not a public holiday, but family and friends gather to share cakes and play games.