Why do we celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival? Why do we eat mooncake on Mid-Autumn Festival? To answer your questions on this annual celebration, this Mid-Autumn Festival 2021 post covers the history, the story behind the festival, what to eat, the activities and more.
When is Mid-Autumn Festival 2021?
Mid-Autumn Festival takes place every year on the 15th day of the eighth month in the lunar calendar.
This year, that day falls on Tuesday, September 21, 2021.
Why do we celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival?
The Mid-Autumn Festival is a time when friends and family gather together to celebrate the harvest season.
It is believed that the moon’s orbit influences the success of the agriculture.
Wheat and rice are the two types of crops that are harvested around the time of the festival.
During Mid-Autumn Festival, the moon happens to be the closest to the Earth so the tradition is to give thanks to the moon for the bounties of the harvest.
The festival is a time when people pray for good luck, fortune, blessings and to gather with loved ones to admire the supermoon.
How the Mid-Autumn Festival became an official holiday dates back to the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD) when the Chinese Emperors would hold lavish feasts and offering to the Gods to thank them for their blessing on the year’s harvest.
Which countries celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival 2021?
The Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated in Eastern and South Eastern Asia. It is mostly associated with Chinese culture.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is considered to be the second most important holiday after Chinese New Year.
What Western (US & Canada) holiday is similar to Mid-Autumn Festival?
The Mid-Autumn Festival is a harvest festival and some people compare it to North American Thanksgiving.
Mid-Autumn Festival Story
If you’re wondering what is the Mid-Autumn Festival legend, here’s a brief rundown.
The story of Chang’e, Chinese Goddess of the moon, is celebrated as part of the Mid-Autumn Festival.
It starts off with Hou Yi, a skilled archer and the husband of Chang’e, who was tasked to shoot down the ten suns in the sky that were causing extreme hot conditions on Earth.
The ten suns made it difficult for crops to be grown which would jeopardize the food sources of the people.
Hou Yi, the skillful archer that he was, successfully shot down nine out of the ten suns.
The Gods rewarded Hou Yi with an elixir of immortality with enough to give just one person the gift of immortality.
Now there are many variations to the rest of the story as to how and why Chang’e end up acquiring such elixir of immortality and becoming the Chinese Goodess of the Moon.
One of them is that Hou Yi’s apprentice tried to steal the elixir so Chang’e drank it to save it which made her immortal.
In another variation, Chang’e is described to have taken the elixir out of greed so that she could become immortal.
Regardless of the reason behind why she took the elixir, all versions of the story include Chang’e becoming immortal after drinking the elixir and floating to the moon such as to never be able to be with her husband again.
Hou Yi who missed his wife left out some offerings for her (ie, some of her favourite foods) and looked to the moon in hopes of seeing her shadow.
Mid-Autumn Festival Traditions
You might be wondering what there is to do during the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Since the Mid-Autumn Festival is about appreciating the moon, celebrations typically happen at night.
During Mid-Autumn Festival, family and friends gather together for a reunion dinner to give thanks.
Lanterns are an integral part of the festival celebrations and one of the oldest traditions.
During Mid-Autumn Festival, people would write wishes on lanterns and then release them into the sky.
However, in modern times, due to environmental and safety concerns, this practice has become less and less.
You will still find lantern in a variety of shapes, colours and sizes on display contributing to the festive atmosphere.
You can also make your own DIY lantern to enjoy the occasion.
Since the moon is the focus on the Mid-Autumn festival, people will come together for moon viewing parties.
The festival is the time when the moon is the brightest and closest to Earth.
Mid-Autumn Festival Food
The most iconic food associated with the Mid Autumn festival is mooncake.
The mooncake are baked round pastries (around 4 inches wide and 1.25 – 1.5 inches thick) with thick, tender pastry skin and thick fillings.
Fillings choices include red bean paste, fruit, nuts or lotus seed paste to name a few.
However, nowadays, shops have come up with more unique and modern flavours including tea flavoured, floral flavoured, alcohol flavoured and so forth.
It is also common to have one or more whole salted egg yolks in their center of the filling to represent the full moon.
Mooncakes are typically cut into wedges and enjoyed with tea.
Its round shape symbolizes “unity” or “reunion” and best wishes.
The origin of the mooncake dates back to the end of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368 AD).
Rebels organized an uprising by passing messages to each other within mooncakes in an effort to overthrow the Mongol rule.
Mooncakes can be store bought but you can also make your own. Check out my recipe for a Matcha Snow Skin Mooncake.
Osmanthus Cake & Wine
Mid-Autumn Festival coincides with the time when osmanthus is in bloom. Osmanthus is incorporated into pastries, cakes and infused with wine.
Hairy Crabs, otherwise known as the Chinese mitten crab, is also in season. Hairy crabs are delicacies which are enjoyed commonly in Shanghai.
River snails are a common delicacy consumed in the Guangdong region during Mid-Autumn Festival.
What do you give on Mid-Autumn Festival?
It is common to gift mooncakes. There is no need to gift wrap them because they typically come in some very stylish package already.
Mid-Autumn Festival 2021 Greetings
Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!
Mid-Autumn Festival is pronounced in Mandarin as Zhōngqiū Jié and Jūng-chāu Jit in Cantonese.
It is written as 中秋节 in simplified Chinese and 中秋節 in traditional Chinese.