Happy Mid-Autumn Festival! (中秋节，zhong qiu jie，joeng chi-o gee-ay). A brief educational post with a larger one to come this weekend. It’s sometimes referred to as “Chinese Thanksgiving” since it revolves around family togetherness and is probably the second most important holiday after the Spring Festival.
It falls on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, which happens to be when the full Moon is closest to the Earth. As such, the Moon plays a huge part in the festival, and it’s thought to have originally come from moon worship. Here’s a not too eloquent summary of the legend surrounding the festival:
There used to be peerless archer named Hou Yi, who was married to a woman called Chang’E. One year, there were suddenly ten suns where there used to be one which wrought great destruction across the land. Hou Yi heard the peoples’ cries, and taking up his bow he shot down nine of the ten suns. And lo did an immortal on high give him mad props for that, along with an elixir of immortality. Hou Yi didn’t want to leave his wife behind, so he gave her the elixir, which she also refused to drink. One day though one of Hou Yi’s apprentices tried to take the elixir for himself when Hou Yi was out. Rather than give it to him, Chang’E drank it herself and flew into the sky. In order to be close to her husband, she chose to live on the Moon. When Hou Yi came home he was kinda bummed understandably, and set out all of Chang’E’s favorite fruits and cakes in the yard, starting a tradition that continues to today when Chang’E is closest to the Earth.
Today people celebrate it by going home if possible (though much like college students during Thanksgiving not all do), have a big meal, pray for good marriages, light incense, do dragon dances if you’re in the south, and give then eat mooncakes. Two themes you might notice here are togetherness and roundness. The moon is round when full, as are mooncakes, and that wholeness represents the whole family being together. It’s real sweet. As are the mooncakes. They’re little bready cakes filled with all sorts of things and come in all shapes and sizes. Various jellies, nuts, sesame, pepper, eggs, instant noodles (no shit), literally anything you could imagine. For the most part they’re delicious, although like fruitcake there are many people who straight up don’t like them.
Here’s a hilarious comic I happened across.
Bear 1: “Want a mooncake?”
Bear 2: “You know I do!”
Bear 1: “Five-nut?”
Bear 2: “Fuck right off!”
It’s hilarious because the five-nut filling also includes a sickening amount of sugar and other weird stuff that makes it really gross to eat.
I gave and received my fair share, went to class, came home, wrote homework. Friday’s tomorrow! Here’s some of the wide array of mooncakes out there.