Mid-Autumn Festival

The Mid-Autumn Festival occurs every year on the fifteenth day of the eighth

month. This date is in respect to the lunar calendar which is used by the Chinese.

In the Gregorian calendar, used in America, this day would be approximately the

fifteenth of September.

On this day, the moon is supposed to be at its fullest and brightest of the year.

The whole family eats out or in their yards to celebrate and watch the full moon.

Children play with paper lanterns and the same lanterns are hung outside the front

doors of buildings, such as houses and restaurants. Mooncakes are eaten and

Chinese tea is usually used to wash it down.

The name, mooncake, is self-explanatory. It is a round cake, in the shape of a

moon. The ingredients of the cake consist of lotus seeds, made into a sort of paste.

The paste is surrounded by a crust, which usually has four Chinese characters

imprinted on the top. These characters either tell the type of mooncake it is (i.e.

regular, lotus with egg yolk), the name of the store it was bought from, or just

simply says “mooncake”.

The origin of the mooncake is in China, during the Sang Dynasty. The Han

people were conquered by the Mongolians and named the new dynasty Yuan. The

Han people did not like living under Mongolian rule. Therefore, they wanted to

rebel and retake China. However, the Mongolians had taken this into consideration

and did not allow the people to communicate (especially public gatherings) or to

possess sharp, pointed weaponry. Thus, the people had to find a way of

communicating secretly. One group of men thought up the idea of placing a piece of

paper with the date of the rebellion inside little cakes, which they would sell to the

people, who would read the paper and find out the date. To gain permission from

the Mongolian soldiers to sell the cakes, they told them that the cakes were a sort of

offering to the gods. They said that they would pray that the Mongolian emperor

could have eternal life. The gullible soldiers quickly agreed. Everyone received the

cakes and the rebellion date was set for the fifteenth day of the eighth month. Since

the Mongolians could not read Chinese, they did not know of the rebellion, were

caught by surprise, and defeated. From then on, the fifteenth day of the eighth

month was known as the day of the Mid-Autumn Festival to celebrate the day of the


Many myths are formed about holidays. One which goes with this holiday is

about a time when the world had ten suns and the earth was hot and dry. Nothing

could survive. A hero stepped forward and used nine arrows to shoot down nine of

the suns. He was crowned king and married a beautiful wife. Within years of his

reign, he became selfish and greedy, a dictator. He wanted to live forever and make

the people suffer. Therefore, he mixed a powerful potion and made a pill which,

when eaten, would give the person eternal life. His wife found him out and stole the

pill. To keep her husband from eating it, she ate it herself. However, after she ate

it, she felt her body get lighter and lighter until she was floating. She kept rising

higher and higher until she reached the moon, where she lives until this day. There

are many variations of this story, such as the bringing of a rabbit with her because

the gods wanted to reward her bravery by giving her company for her loneliness.

Some people say that they can sometimes see a woman in the moon with a rabbit

and a tree (another variation).