Most rulers in ancient China revered the moon on a yearly basis. The habit was then adopted by the general public, and it grew in popularity over time. Over 3,000 years ago, during the Zhou Dynasty, the early form of the Mid-Autumn Festival was derived from the practice of moon worship.
According to legend
The Mid-Autumn Event, like every other Chinese festival, has its own particular delicacy — the moon cake. It’s a type of cookie with a variety of fillings and varied decorative patterns on the surface reflecting festival legends. It’s usually round, because the Mid-Autumn Festival is a time for family reunions, and “round” has a similar pronunciation in Chinese to “reunion.” People sacrifice these cookies to the moon as offerings during the festival, eat them for joy, and give them to relatives and friends for good luck. Here is one of the most popular legends about the moon, which is commonly repeated during festival days.
Tang Dynasty (618 -907)
Appreciating the moon became fashionable among the elite class during the Tang Dynasty. Rich merchants and bureaucrats threw lavish feasts in their courts after the emperors. They drank while admiring the brilliant moon. Music and dance were also required. The common people simply prayed to the moon for a bumper crop.
Song Dynasty (960 – 1279)
The “Mid-Autumn Festival” was founded in the Northern Song Dynasty on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. Sacrificing to the moon became quite popular after that, and it has remained a tradition ever since.
Yuan Dynasty (1279 – 1368)
The Yuan Kingdom, a Mongol-ruled dynasty, established the custom of eating mooncakes during the festival. Mooncakes were used to distribute messages encouraging people to rebel against the Mongols.
Ming & Qing Dynasties ( 1368-1912)
The Mid-Autumn Festival was as popular as Chinese New Year throughout the Ming and Qing Dynasties and the Qing Dynasty. People sponsored a variety of activities to commemorate the occasion, including the burning of pagodas and the performance of the fire dragon dance.
Recognized as an official public holiday (2008)
Many traditional activities are fading from Mid-Autumn Festivals nowadays, while new ones are emerging. The majority of workers and students consider it as merely a day off from work and school. People go on vacation with their family or friends, or they watch the Mid-Autumn Festival Gala on television at night.
The festival started more than 2,000 years ago as a post-autumn harvest celebration, which was devoted to thanking the gods. Most scholars believe that the Mid-autumn Festival first appeared during the Song dynasty, derived from the tradition of worshipping the moon. Legends associated with the full moon became attached to this festival. It was during the reign of Emperor Tai (Northern Song dynasty) that the 15th day of the eighth month was designated as mid-autumn’s day.
Rabbit on the moon
In this story, Buddha disguised himself as an elderly man in need of assistance and sought three animals for assistance: a fox, a monkey, and a rabbit. The fox gave him a fish, the monkey brought him some fruits, but the rabbit threw itself into the fire and offered itself as meal. Buddha restored the rabbit and sent it to the moon to be honored as a token of his appreciation.
Facts about the mooncake festival
Name in Chinese: 中秋节 Zhōngqiūjié /jong-chyoh-jyeah/ ‘middle autumn festival’
2021 date: Tuesday, September 21st. See the Mid-Autumn Festival Dates.
How it began: moon worship, over 3,000 years
Must-eat food: mooncake
Popular activities: admiring the full moon, eating mooncakes, traveling
Greetings: The simplest is “Happy Mid-Autumn Festival” (中秋快乐 ‘Mid-Autumn happy’).
How the Chinese Celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival
Family members eating dinner together, similar to Thanksgiving meal, exchanging mooncakes, worshiping the moon with gifts, displaying lanterns, and participating in regional festivities are all prevalent Mid-Autumn Festival practices.
Singaporean kids have a practice of hanging lanterns during the festival. One or two weeks before the Mid-Autumn Festival, colorful lanterns are hung in several locations throughout Singapore. During the holiday, the Singapore River hosts the most famous lantern fair.
Why the Moon Festival Is Celebrated
The Moon Festival was once held during the harvest season. Autumn was a time when ancient Chinese monarchs venerated the moon to thank it for the crop. The Mid-Autumn Festival was seen by common people as a celebration of their hard labor and harvest. Nowadays, the Moon Festival is mostly observed as a time for family reunions.
What the Chinese Eat for Mid-Autumn Festival
In China, mooncakes are a must-try Mid-Autumn dish. They’re a type of Chinese pastry that’s been around for a long time. The roundness of mooncakes is a sign of reunion and pleasure for Chinese people.
Harvest items such as crabs, pumpkins, pomeloes, and grapes are also relished during the festival. People love them when they are at their freshest and most nutritious, and round foods are especially associated with fortunate meanings. Festival culinary customs are also evolving. The younger generation has different beliefs about what they should eat. The majority of them dislike mooncakes and prefer to eat what they want.