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Mid-Autumn Festival

Mid-Autumn Day, also known as August Festival, Moon-chasing Festival, Girl’s Festival, and Reunion Festival, is one of the most important traditional festival in China, as well as other countries in southeastern. This festival got the name because the day is at 15th August in Chinese lunar calendar. Some countries or regions prefer to celebrate this festival in 16th August, because the moon in 16th is larger and brighter than 15th in Chinese lunar calendar.

Mid-Autumn Day dated from Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.), and was prosperous in Song Dynasty (960-1279 A.D.). It was equally famous with New Year in Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 A.D.).

Since 2008, Mid-Autumn Day was listed as National Holiday and The First Batch of National Intangible Cultural Heritage List by State Council in 20th May, 2006. Every festival has its own origin. In Chinese folk stories, we can tell at least three origin or legendary from Mid-Autumn Day.
Firstly, the day originated from ritual activities of ancient emperors since the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 B.C.). The activities from emperor were spread to nobles and officials, scholars and men of letters, then to ordinary people.

Secondly, it’s related to agriculture production. Autumn is a period for harvest. In Middle August, crops and fruits are ripened. In order to celebrate the harvest, peasants choose Mid-Autumn Day as a festival to express their happiness and gratitude.

Thirdly and the most legendary, in remote ancient times, there was an hero named Houyi, who was an archer, shot nine suns down from the sky and ordered the last sun to rise and set in time so as to save the world. He had a wife named Chang’e. One day he went out to Mt. Kunlun to visit friends and seek for Taoism, he met with the Queen of Heaven. To commend his contribution, she gave him a packet of elixir. Houyi was loth to leave his wife so he gave the elixir to Chang’e and asked her to keep it. One day, Houyi went out. One of his friends Pengmeng wanted to steal the elixir and intimidated Chang’e to give him the elixir. At this crucial moment, Chang’e ate the elixir. Then amazingly, her body floated off the ground immediately and flied to the sky. She became an immortal. Chang’e didn’t want to fly too far from her husband, so she chose the moon as her palace. When Houyi went back, was aware of everything, he regretted so much but had to accept the fact. He went to the garden and put some fruits and cakes under the moon to miss his lovely wife. Then the ritual or offering activities was spread to the folk.

There are other customs in Mid-Autumn Festival, like tide watching, riddle guessing, moon cake eating, full moon admiring, etc. The latter two customs are most common ones among Chinese people. Lately, people regarded moon cake as a symbol of reunion of families. Moon cake became a very important kind of gift between relatives and friends.