We celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节) last Thursday, which was the 15th day of the eighth month of the Lunar Calendar. On this day, the moon is exceptionally round and luminous – symbolizing a family reunion and celebration.
The origin of the Mid-Autumn Festival is unclear. There are many legends tied to the festival like, the story of Chang’e and Hou Yi, which itself has several versions. There’s another popular legend where mooncakes were used by the Han Chinese to bring down the ruling Mongol government.
The story as told in the book, “Chinese Festivals – Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival” by Sanmu Tang, shares the story of Hou Yi and Chang’e. The version goes like this: Once upon a time, there were 10 suns in the sky. The heat of the suns caused the crops to shrivel and as a result, the villagers suffered.
Hou Yi, an excellent archer, helped the country by shooting down nine suns. As a reward, the emperor gave Hou Yi an elixir. One day, while Hou Yi was out hunting, his evil disciple, Pang Meng went to his house to steal the elixir.
To prevent Pang Meng from eating the elixir, Chang’e (Hou Yi’s wife) swallowed the pill. Immediately, she floated to the moon and became an immortal.
Hou Yi was devastated to hear the news. He placed food outside his house and looked at the moon, hoping to catch a glimpse of his wife. This was his way of reuniting with his wife. That is why, the Mid-Autumn Festival is an important day for families to gather together.
Here’s how we celebrated our Mid-Autumn Festival this year:
We read two stories relating to the Mid-Autumn Festival and discussed the origins of the festival. The story, “Lin Yi’s Lantern” by Brenda Williams is a heartwarming tale of one boy’s selflessness. Lin Yi was sent by his mother to the market to buy food for the festival. Rather than buying a red rabbit lantern (which he so badly desires), Lin Yi resisted and bought peanuts for his uncle. Eventually, his selfless act was being rewarded when his uncle shows up with a red rabbit lantern.
We tasted some of the mini mooncakes that Grandma (奶奶) made. Hannah didn’t eat much mooncakes. She doesn’t like anything sweet for that matter.
Learning a poem by Li Bai (李白) – Jing Ye Si (静夜思)
Before my bed
There is bright-lit moonlight
So that it seems
Like frost on the ground:
Lifting my head
I watch the bright moon
Lowering my head
I dream that I’m home.
(Translation taken from Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding)
Playing with lantern
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to play with lanterns on the festival night. We played at home one evening, where we switched off all the lights and roamed around the house with our lantern.
It was a family affair on the festival night. We had dinner with the grandparents, uncle, auntie and cousins. It has been a while since the cousins met. Hannah thoroughly enjoyed herself with her cousins and wished her cousins could follow her home. LOL!