The Chinese Moon Festival (aka Mid-Autumn Festival) is a harvest festival celebrated by Chinese and Vietnamese people. The festival is held on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar during the full moon. This year the festival falls on September 13, 2019. The Chinese have celebrated the harvest during the autumn full moon dating back to the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BCE). It is the second largest festival in China after the Chinese New Year.
The festival was a time to enjoy the successful reaping of rice and wheat with food offerings made in honor of the moon. Today, it is still an occasion for outdoor reunions among friends and relatives to eat mooncakes and watch the moon, a symbol of harmony and unity. Mooncakes are made with egg yolks and come with a variety of fillings; the most popular are made from bean paste, lotus seeds, fruits, and sometimes even meat. In Chinese culture, a round shape symbolizes completeness and reunion. Therefore, the sharing and eating of round mooncakes among family members during the week of the festival signifies the completeness and unity of families.
Another notable part of celebrating the holiday is the carrying of brightly lit lanterns, lighting lanterns on towers, or floating sky lanterns. Another tradition involving lanterns is to write riddles on them and have other people try to guess the answers. It is unclear how lanterns became connected to the festival. Traditionally, the lantern was used to symbolize fertility and functioned mainly as a toy or decoration. Today the lantern has come to symbolize the festival itself.
Want to get in on this year’s festivities? Check out this tried and true mooncake recipe!