The History of the Mid-Autumn Festival

Updated: Sep 18, 2021

Hosted on the night of a full moon, the 15th day of the eighth lunar month marks the celebration of the anticipated Mid Autumn Festival from September 19th to the 21st. With friends and relatives everywhere on the actual day of the celebration, meeting for a celebratory supper sitting down and admiring the moon, eating delicious mooncakes together, and lighting up the sky with lanterns.

Being internationally celebrated, the festival is conducted differently in all parts of the world. While upholding core traditions, countries have added their twist to the occasion. China, for example, despite its status as the Festival’s country of origin, has deviated from the traditional roots/meaning of the celebration. In popular Chinese culture, the Mid-autumn festival is alternately viewed as a second “Valentine’s Day” because of the touching love story in the myth surrounding the festival.

According to Chinese legend, the sky was once dominated by ten suns. The people on earth were suffering from the tremendous heat before Hou Yi emerged. He shoots down nine of the suns and becomes a hero and was rewarded with an immortality elixir that would allow him to transform into a divine being and ascend to the heavens. But Hou Yi was a married man, so instead of swallowing it immediately and leaving behind his wife, Hou Yi gave the elixir to Chang’e, his wife, and told her to keep it for him.

However, when Hou Yi went to the mountains one day, one of his disciples betrayed him and went to steal the elixir from Chang’e. Terrified and refusing to hand it over, Chang'e swallowed the pill in desperation and ascended to heaven. There, she was saddened because she desired to be close to the one she loves., and the Gods told her that the closest place to her husband would be on the moon. Then they let her stay on the moon which was as close to Hou Yi as she could get. Following this occurrence, the people began to worship the moon for blessings and eat mooncakes to honor Chang'e. When Hou Yi died, people made him a symbol of the sun, seeing them as the balance of Yin and Yang.

This was where the Mooncake Festival was thought to have originated from. The practice was believed to have begun around 3000 years ago and would continue for many years to come, following the footsteps of Chinese people as they spread to other parts of the world, including, of course, Indonesia. And just a little tip, buy those mooncakes because when the festival starts, they really sell out fast!


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