Tomorrow is Zhong Qiu Jie . Zhong Qiu Jie is also known as Harvest Moon, Mid-Autumn Festival, Moon Festival and Moon Cake Festival and in Vietnamese “Tet Trung Thu”. It is a day of family reunions much like a Western Thanksgiving. Chinese people believe that on that day, the moon is the roundest and brightest signaling a time of completeness and abundance. During the Mid-Autumn Festival, children delight in parading multi-colored lanterns as families take to the streets to moon-gaze.
The festival, celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, has no fixed date in the Western calendar, but the day always coincides with a full moon.
Descriptions of the “Mid-Autumn” first appeared in “Rites of the Zhou”, a collection of ritual matters of the Western Zhou Dynasty some 3,000 years ago. It described the eighth lunar month, the second month of autumn, as “zhong qiu” (meaning mid autumn).
The Chinese began celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival in the early Tang Dynasty (618 – 907), a period of material abundance and cultural blossoming. The Chinese worshipped the moon by offering liquor, fruit and snacks outdoors, expressing thanks for bumper harvest and praying for the god of the moon to bring good luck.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is characterized by:
Mooncakes: A legend goes that mooncakes were first made in the 14th Century, when people exchanged pancakes that were stuck with slips of paper reading “Kill the Mongols on the 15th day of the eighth month”. It was said to be a secret message from rebel leader Zhu Yuanzhang calling on the Chinese to overthrow the Mongolian rulers of the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368)
Lord Rabbit: Known as Tu’er Ye in Chinese, the Lord Rabbit is a traditional icon of the festival. It has a human body, but a rabbit’s ears and mouth.
Matchmaking: The Chinese believe the god of the moon is a highly efficient matchmaker. In some parts of China, masquerades are held on the Mid-Autumn Festival for young men and women to find partners. One by one, young women are encouraged to throw their handkerchiefs to the crowd. The young man who catches and returns the handkerchief has a chance of romance. It is also a romantic night for lovers, who sit holding hands on hilltops, riverbanks and park benches, captivated by the brightest moon of the year!
Lanterns and dragon dances: These are traditional activities during the holiday, but are popular mainly in south China, particularly in Guangdong Province and Hong Kong.
This day is celebrated as the end of the summer harvesting season by farmers. Traditionally, to admire the bright mid-autumn harvest moon, Chinese family members and friends will gather on this day and under the moon, they eat moon cakes and pomelos. Besides this, putting pomelo rinds on one’s head, carrying brightly lit lanterns, burning incense in reverence to deities including Chang’e are included in additional cultural or regional customs. To celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, barbecuing outdoors has become a widespread way.
Traditional foods for a Chinese Mid-Autumn feast are red — for good luck. Lobster and salmon are particular favorites along with apples, pomegranates, roasted peanuts, pomelo, chestnuts, fatt koh (sponge cakes) and moon cakes.
When the moon is supposedly at its fullest and roundest position, Moon Festival parallels the autumnal equinox of the solar calendar. Moon-cake is the traditional food of this festival, available in many different varieties with yummy ingredients, and sold everywhere in traditional flavors like lotus and egg yolk or exotic varieties like durian, chocolate, coffee and ice-cream.
Over the weekend, I was at Boulevard Shopping Complex and saw a wide variety of moon cakes and lanterns for sale. I could not resist taking some photos of the moon cakes and lanterns.
And yesterday my best friend Ken in Brunei came down from Brunei and had lunch with me. He also gave me a beautiful box of moon cakes. The box is exquisite and my wife loves it. And the moon cakes were really nice. Thanks a lot, my friend!
To all my friends and readers of this blog, I wish you all a very happy Zhong Qiu Jie!