Mid-Autumn Festival – The Tales Behind the Tradition

Mid-Autumn Festival, or “Moon Festival”, is just a month away! The second most important occasion in the Chinese calendar after Chinese New Year, the highly popular harvest festival falls on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. We’re taking a look at the tradition, its legendary tales and centuries of ceremonies!

Ancient Chinese farmers observed the changing of seasons and the correlation between the moon and their harvest time, hence the Mid-Autumn Celebration.

Back in the days of the Zhou Dynasty (1046 – 256 BC), the ancient Chinese observed the close connection between the movement of the moon, the changing of the seasons, and the growing of their crops, and so began to celebrate the harvest by offering thanks to the moon on autumn days. The Mid-Autumn Festival reached Malaysian shores with the first wave of Chinese migrants in the early 15th century.

A cartoon depiction of Chang’e, the Moon Goddess of Immortality.

The most famous moon-based myth is the romantic story of Chang’e, the Moon Goddess of Immortality and her husband Hou Yi. In ancient times, ten suns shone in the sky, and people suffered in the heat. Hou Yi, an excellent archer, shot down nine of the ten suns, leaving one to provide light. He was hailed as a hero, and Wangmu, the Queen of Heaven, gifted him an elixir of immortality, which would take Hou Yi to heaven as a god. Hou Yi gave it to his wife, Chang’e, to keep. Peng Meng, his jealous apprentice, waited until Hou Yi was out hunting one day, and demanded Chang’e give up the elixir. Knowing she had no choice, Chang’e drank the potion herself and immediately flew into the sky. Her love for her husband drew her to the moon, the closest point to Earth from the heavens. Hou Yi, devastated with grief, began offering Chang’e’s favourite foods as sacrifices to the moon. The sympathetic locals soon followed, bringing offerings to the Moon Goddess to pray for peace and good luck.

Chang’e, the Moon Goddess of Immortality and her companions - Wu Gang and the Jade Rabbit.

Different East Asian countries have slightly different customs; Mongolians “chase the moon” to the horizon on horseback, and Taiwanese tradition dictates single women should ‘steal’ vegetables to find love. In Malaysia, where we have the second highest population of overseas Chinese (after Thailand), mooncakes are a massive part of the festivities! In fact, Mid-Autumn Festival is more commonly known as “Mooncake Festival” or “Lantern Festival” in MalaysiaIf you’re the superstitious type, light a Chinese lantern during the festival and make a wish – the longer your lantern is in the air, the more chance your wish has of coming true. Chinese communities in Penang and Kuala Lumpur celebrate in style, with colourful parades and performances including Lion Dances and Dragon Dances.

Mooncake - a timeless dessert for generations to come.

Different East Asian countries have slightly different customs; Mongolians “chase the moon” to the horizon on horseback, and Taiwanese tradition dictates single women should ‘steal’ vegetables to find love. In Malaysia, where we have the second highest population of overseas Chinese (after Thailand), mooncakes are a massive part of the festivities! In fact, Mid-Autumn Festival is more commonly known as “Mooncake Festival” or “Lantern Festival” in MalaysiaIf you’re the superstitious type, light a Chinese lantern during the festival and make a wish – the longer your lantern is in the air, the more chance your wish has of coming true. Chinese communities in Penang and Kuala Lumpur celebrate in style, with colourful parades and performances including Lion Dances and Dragon Dances.

Each lantern representing a wish.

If you’re the superstitious type, light a Chinese lantern during the festival and make a wish – the longer your lantern is in the air, the more chance your wish has of coming true. Chinese communities in Penang and Kuala Lumpur celebrate in style, with colourful parades and performances including Lion Dances and Dragon Dances.

Wonderful time for families and kids to come together and share in the festivities.

Fundamentally, Mid-Autumn Festival is about three closely connected concepts: gathering, with family and friends coming together when the moon is brightest; thanksgiving, for a bountiful harvest; and prayer, for luck and longevity in the future. It’s a delightful – and delicious – occasion to celebrate with loved ones!

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