It’s the Mid-Autumn Festival also known as Mooncake or Lantern Festival. It’s the 3rd most popular holiday in China and its origins go back 3,500-years. The festival falls on the 15th day of the eighth month of the Chinese lunar calendar which translates to September 8th. It’s a happy occasion celebrating the harvest, family and friendship.
One of the most important elements of celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival is to buy and give mooncakes to your friends and family.
Eating slices of mooncake together signifies that those present will be reunited in the future. If you eat mooncakes given to you as a gift by other people, it is another indication that you will meet them again.
Mooncakes are also a reminder of a time in ancient Chinese history of great strife and crisis, in particular the overthrow of the Mongol Yuan dynasty, which ruled China for over a century from 1271-1368 AD.
A piece of paper was baked into thousands of mooncakes to incite rebellion, saying, “Kill the Mongols on the 15th day of the eighth month”, which was distributed by rebels to the Chinese families under strict military rule.
To commemorate the rebellion, mooncakes have been baked in special molds which imprint between three to six Chinese characters onto the cakes.
Today the Chinese characters refer to the flavor of the cake. Some of the more popular flavors include: date, red bean, mung bean, pineapple and nuts. Usually a single or double egg yolk is baked inside to further signify the moon.
The Mid-Autumn Festival also honors the legend of Chang’e who lives on the Moon and is immortal, while her husband Houyi is stuck on Earth, and the two can only meet during the Mid-Autumn Festival’s the full moon, when the milky way is easier to cross.
To honor the story, it is traditional to light lanterns outside your home during Mid-Autumn Festival. The oldest style of lanterns are pink, blue, yellow and green paper lanterns which hold a candle and have a tassel hanging beneath the lantern.