Mid Autumn Festival
The August Moon Festival or Mid-Autumn Festival (Chinese characters above) is one of the most celebrated Chinese holidays. It is held on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. Chinese legends say that the moon is at its brightest and roundest on this day. Based on the Gregorian calendar, this year's August Moon Festival will be held on September 12.
The August Moon Festival is often called the Women's Festival. The moon (Chinese character on right) symbolizes elegance and beauty. While Westerners worship the sun (yang or male) for its power, people in the Far East admire the moon. The moon is the 'yin' or female principle and it is a trusted friend. Chinese parents often name their daughters after the moon, in hope that they will be as lovely as the moon.
In fact, many ancient August Moon folktales are about a moon maiden. On the 15th night of the 8th lunar moon, little children on earth can see a lady on the moon. And on this magical occasion, children who make wishes to the Lady on the Moon will find their dreams come true.
Families get together to eat mooncakes and celebrate the end of the harvest season. Scholars write poems about the moon. This night is also made for romantic rendezvous. Friendships are made and renewed. No wonder the August Moon Festival has a special meaning to all who believe in the mystical powers of the moon.
When did this festival first begin? No exact date can be found in historical documents, but scholars assume that it is related to 2 customs in China.
The first custom concerns farmers. China is an agricultural country, and farming is closely related to the seasons. In ancient times, farmers worshipped the Earth God to pray for a good harvest, when they sowed the seeds in spring. This was known as spring worship. During autumn, farmers also worshipped the Earth God to thank him for giving them a good harvest. This was known as autumn reward. Since the 15'" month of the 8th month is the time when rice paddies are harvested, some people believe that the Mid Autumn Festival came from the autumn reward ritual.
The second custom concerns worship of the moon. According to astronomy, the Mid Autumn Festival occurs at the autumn equinox. At this time, the sunlight shines vertically on the equator, equally dividing the day and night in both the southern and northern hemispheres. The moon appears in the evening with gentle winds and light clouds. This is the best time to watch the moon. People later made this day, the day to worship the moon.
The Moon FairyLady - 'Chang Er'
Many years ago, there was a king in China. He was a brave man who did lots of belifits to the people. He admired a beautiful girl and made her stay in the palace so that he could see her whenever he wanted. But, the girl did not like the frightful figure of the king. She seldomly spoke a word in the palace. Each time the king went to her place, he used to show her some treasures and brought some gifts to the girl in order to make her smile and speak.
On every full moon, the girl would burned incenses and wax candles to worship the moon. People believed that there was a god lived in the moon that made the moon shine. Girls who wanted to be a beauty and have a handsome husband should worship the moon.
One day, the full moon of the eighth month, the king brought three herbs pills to show her.
"This is from the priest of the palace. If I eat them up, I can live forever." He exclaimed.
This was the first time the girl stuffs he brought.
He continued,"If you and I both take one, we will both live forever. No one can take you away from me!"
Because the king afraid of the pills would have side effects. He forced the girl to take the pill first. If nothing wrong with her after taking the pill, he would take it immediately. However, the girl recognized that if she took all three of them, the king would left her eventually. Therefore, the first time, she spoke to the king,"Let me have a look of the pills first. Otherwise, I will not try at all."
The king surprisingly the girl talked to him. So, he handed the pills to the girl. She did not say anything but eat all of them. The king was extremely angry. He wanted to kill her.
At this moment, the girl started to fly. She could fly because of the intake of the pills. The king could not catch her, but watched her flew toward the moon and disappeared.
After that, people believed that there was a beautiful girl stay in the moon with a little old man and a bunny. The old man was believed to be the god inside the moon and the bunny was his pet. Day after day, Chinese believed that there were people lived in the moon. Their movement made the dark spot when we looked up to the moon. People used to worship the girl to glorify her chastity. So, on every full moon of the mid-Autumn became a festival in order to memorize her.