In China, Hong Kong and South Korea, there is a special occasion quite similar to the American Thanksgiving that is much anticipated. It is very popular that even people from different countries hope to witness and be part of the celebration. Held on the 15th day of the eight lunar month during a full moon, the date falls on September 19, 2013, and the occasion is aptly called the Mid Autumn Festival.
The Mid Autumn Festival continues to gain worldwide popularity not only because it is undeniably interesting but also because it is evolving without leaving tradition and culture in oblivion. The festival celebrates the gift of abundance. It is a time to give thanks, apparently, for a bountiful harvest. As a matter of fact, the festival is also popularly called a harvest festival, which is also known by its other alternate names such as Moon Festival and Moon Cake Festival. Since the festival is associated with the full moon as well as the traditional moon worship and moon gazing, it only makes sense that it is also called the Moon Festival. The other name, Moon Cake Festival, on the other hand, derives from the popular tradition of eating moon cakes on this occasion.
The event is also a perfect time to take a pause from the daily grind of our lives, offer thanks and seize the moment to celebrate the gift of life itself. Who would not want to celebrate the festival when there is so much to look forward to every year? To make the celebration more meaningful, some Chinese take a leave from work to visit family and friends. Meeting them at this time of year is obviously one of the things they look forward to.
The origin of the Mid Autumn Festival is a fascinating story and it is centered in love. It is believed that Chang’e, the Moon Goddess of Immortality, swallowed the elixir of Immortality when Feng Meng forced her to give it to him. Chang’e then flew to the sky and chose to reside in the moon. The elixir was supposed to be a gift to her husband, Houng Yi, from an immortal who admires his heroic deed in shooting the nine suns that rose in the sky together. Had the nine suns not shot down, great disaster could have happened to the people. When Houng Yi learned what happened to his wife, he started to offer fruits and cakes to the moon.
Another version of the story is that Yi has become a cruel ruler after he shot down the nine suns. Chang’e, who loved her husband so much and did not want him to live long and hurt more people, stole the elixir that can turn him to become immortal. Chang’e then flew to the moon and eventually became the spirit of the moon. Overcome with great anger, Yi died soon. People offered a sacrifice thereafter every lunar 15th of August commemorating Chang’e’s act of bravery, courage and love.
As with every Chinese holiday, one of the highly important activities during this festival is dragon dancing. While it is fun to explore China at daytime, it is more fun and quite romantic to do it the whole evening under the bright moon. Dragon dancing in the street becomes more interesting under the evening sky. You can also see families come together simply enjoying the full moon, appreciating its brightness while talking to their heart’s content. You can sense by looking at their eyes that they express good wishes for their loved ones.
In Hong Kong, the celebration is given a modern treatment. You will absolutely see and feel the festive metropolis. Glowing lanterns and fiery dragons dancing in the streets under the full moon are everywhere. The people, gathering in the busy streets, are in the mood for the greatest celebration of their lives. Victoria Harbour is spectacular with its moonlight cruises and festival foods, varying from traditional to modern and to fusion, will absolutely satisfy your palate.
The festival is known as Chusok in Korea and it is also considered as one of the most celebrated Korean holidays. This is the time that Koreans spend time to get together with family and friends and give thanks for all the blessings they receive. Special rice cakes called Songphyun, which is made of rice, beans sesame seeds and chestnuts, are served. Koreans pay respect to their ancestors during this occasion. They visit their tombs and offer rice and fruits and you can see them wearing the traditional Korean clothing and dancing under the bright moon.
The Mid Autumn Festival is indeed a time to give thanks for the gift of family and friends and a celebration for something truly beautiful like the full moon. It is a celebration that should be recorded for posterity so prepare your video cameras and witness the spectacular Mid Autumn Festival. It will be a unique experience that you can share with your family and friends.