Happy Mid-Autumn Festival to everyone! Or as I would like to call it, Happy Mooncake Day! For those of you who don’t know, Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节 zhōng qiū jié) is the second most important festival after Chinese Year where it’s all about family gatherings, outdoor activities, illuminated lanterns and lots and lots of mooncakes. Generally, mooncakes are on sale around this time of the year. Traditionally, the festival is held on the 15th day of the lunar month (Chinese Calendar). For the western calendar this year, it falls on 15th September.
I always look forward to this time of the year as ever since I was a child, me and my family would all get together and celebrate by cooking lots of special foods and dishes as well as eating lots of Mooncake treats, which are traditional Chinese pastries. They are round in shape to reflect the shape of the moon, and the fillings I used to have were simple (lotus seed paste with a duck egg yolk). These days, there are so many varieties the filling ranges from simple to really elaborate! A typical mooncake is made from wheat flour and stuffed with dense sugary fillings like sweetened red bean paste or lotus seed paste. They are usually cut into small wedges and shared amongst family and friends. One of my favourite modern day versions is the mochi ice cream, a small round dessert ball (great for anyone with a sweet tooth!). It is originally made from Japanese Mochi sticky rice with an ice cream filling, and this is a real contrast from the traditional moon cakes I had growing up.
Traditional mooncakes with egg yolk and lotus paste
In Chinese culture, many lanterns are lit for many different Chinese holidays, and Mid-Autumn festival is one of them. I think they do have a symbolic meaning but I’m not 100% sure what it is – Can anyone tell me?? I just think they always look beautiful and in this case, I think they mimic the moon’s brightness.
If you are interested in joining in the celebrations, it may be worth checking out your local area as they sometimes hold unique events for this occasion, from making colourful lanterns to releasing them into the sky.
There are lots of different stories and legends behind this festival and my favourite is the story my Dad told me ages ago. I remember it being about a Moon Lady, I know you’re probably thinking “WTF?” so this is the story…
Long, long ago, there was a man named Hou Yi who was married to a beautiful lady called Chang’e. One day Hou Yi, who was the best archer that ever lived, used his bow and arrows to shoot down nine of the ten Suns as they were killing and burning all the plants on Earth. People were saved, and as a reward The Queen Mother gave Hou Yi a bottle of Elixir that could make him immortal. The Elixir was only enough for one person and Hou Yi didn’t want to become immortal as he loved Chang’e and wanted to stay with her, so he asked Chang’e to keep this Elixir safe for him. As Hou Yi was famous for saving all the people, they all wanted him to be their master. One of his students however, called Pang Meng, was greedy and selfish and wanted the Elixir to become immortal himself. One day, when Hou Yi was out hunting with the students, Pang Meng went to Hou Yi’s house to steal the Elixir but Chang’e was protecting it. He tried to force her to give him the bottle but Chang’e knew she could not defeat him so the only way was to drink the Elixir herself. Chang’e immediately began to float, higher and higher she went up into the sky, until she stopped on the moon. She became immortal.
Hou Yi was devastated when he returned and found out what had happened. To mourn, he moved a table underneath the moon and prepared food on it, hoping his beautiful wife would come back to him…
Many children believe (not me I don’t believe it….ahem) that to this day, Chang’e is still on the moon.
Zhù nǐ hé nǐ de jiārén zhōngqiū kuàilè!
Wishing you and your family a happy Mid-Autumn Festival!
Love Heather x