What is the Mid-Autumn Festival and what to do?
Mid-Autumn Festival is also known as “Zhong Qiu Jie”, Lantern festival, or Moon Festival is the second most important festival in Asia. Here are the most common history of the Mid-Autumn Festival and ideas of what to do with your family and friends.
“Zhong Qiu Jie”, also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival, is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. It is time for family members and loved ones to gather and enjoy the full moon – an auspicious symbol of abundance, harmony, and luck. In Taiwan people usually indulge in a BBQ feast and light lanterns. Eating fragrant mooncakes of many varieties and pomelo is also part of the festivity.
“Zhong Qiu Jie” probably began as a harvest festival, where emperors celebrated the harvest by making offerings to the moon and celebrating with a massive feast.
An old saying goes “people and the moon reunite to form a full circle”.
The myth of Chang’e.
The festival was later given a mythological story with legends of Chang’e, the beautiful lady in the moon.
A love story.
According to Chinese mythology, the earth once had 10 suns circling over it. One day, a strong archer, Hou Yi, succeeded in shooting down 9 of the suns, leaving only one perfect moon. His bravery earned him an elixir from the Queen of Heaven, which would give him eternal life. However, Hou Yi, would not leave his wife Chang’e, therefore he did not drink the elixir. Instead, he gave it to Chang’e to keep the elixir safe. However, a greedy apprentice observed them and decided that he should be the one to benefit from the drink.
One day the apprentice tried to steal the elixir, and Chang-’e saw the only way to protect it was to drink it. And so she did. As it was not meant for her, she became light as air and floated up into the sky. It is said that she stays on the moon, to stay near her husband Hou Yi. When Hou Yi discovered what had happened he killed the apprentice and cried at the moon, however right there he saw the moon shone brighter and clearer than ever before, and he saw a glimpse of a shadow that resembled Chang’e precisely.
Yearly, Hou Yi prepares a table with mooncakes, fresh fruits, and incense – the favorite food of Chang’e, and feast on the day when the moon is at its fullest, hoping to get a glimpse of his wife’s shadow.
Thus started the legend of the lady in the moon.
Han Chinese and the Mongols
Another legend told to kids in local schools covers the uprising of Han Chinese against the ruling Mongols and the end of the Yuan Dynasty (1280-1368 CE). Han Chinese apparently used the mooncakes to spread the word that supporters were to rebel on Mid-Autumn Day. As the Mongols had imposed strict controls upon the families of Han Chinese, only 1 out of 10 households could own a knife, and it was guarded by a Mongolian guard, therefore families had to come together to share the Mooncakes (and at the same time they gathered the weapons).
How to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival in Taiwan
There are different ways to celebrate, however the most popular here in Taiwan is to gather family and friends for a BBQ(This is also why you at this time can buy barbecues at the shops). The tradition of the barbecue has actually risen the last decade or two.
Why BBQ at Mid-Autumn Festival?
About 20 years ago, a commercial for barbecue sauce was played on TV quite intensively every year before the Mid-Autumn Festival. The slogan for this ad was “once a family barbecue, tens of thousands of families will smell it”, and it caught on really well as you gather with family and friends for social activities. The tradition of barbecuing at the Mid-Autumn Festival became a trend.
Where to go for the Mid-Autumn Festival
Some places that you can go to and will find more local people gathering are Yangmingshan National park or local parks; riverside areas, Taipei 101 or hike the Elephant Mountain, and Maokong to view the moon. Keep in mind that the traffic is very often very heavy as people travel to see family.
Many families light lanterns and eat Mooncakes and autumn fruits like pomelo.
You should try the high-calorie Mooncake at least once, actually more times as Mooncakes come in many different flavors and shapes. Mooncakes are as important a dish to the Mid-Autumn Festival as the turkey is to Thanksgiving and should be shared with family and friends.
The most traditional Mooncakes are made out of lotus seed paste, lard, and salted egg yolk, however, red bean and custard have also become very popular, and recently non-traditional flavors like chocolate and coffee are available.
Enjoy your Mid-Autumn Festival and remember that the Center will be closed so we can celebrate this auspicious holiday with our family and friends.
Read about Chinese New Year here