Mid-Autumn Festival is an inherited custom of moon sacrificial ceremonies. The ancient Chinese observed that the movement of the moon had a close relationship with changes of the seasons and agricultural production. Hence, to express their thanks to the moon and celebrate the harvest, they offered a sacrifice to the moon on autumn days.
Legend has it that: There is a beauty called Chang'e, she levitated all the way to the moon when she overdosed on an elixir of life, intended originally for her husband who shot nine extra suns out of the sky with arrows. Her only companions on the lunar surface include a rabbit and a man condemned to Sisyphean tree-cutting.
On the festival day, family members gather to offer sacrifice to the moon, appreciate the bright full moon, eat moon cakes, and express strong yearnings toward family members and friends who live afar. In addition, there are some other customs like playing lanterns, and dragon and lion dances in some regions. The unique customs of ethnic minorities are interesting as well, such as “chasing the moon” of Mongolians, and “steal vegetables or fruits” of the Dong people.
The Moon Cake is the special food of Mid-Autumn Festival. On that day, people sacrifice moon cakes to the moon as an offering and eat them for celebration. Moon cakes come in various flavors according to the region. The moon cakes are round, symbolizing the reunion of a family, so it is easy to understand how the eating of moon cakes under the round moon can evoke longing for distant relatives and friends. Nowadays, people present moon cakes to relatives and friends to demonstrate that they wish them a long and happy life.
Mid-Autumn Festival in other Asian Countries
Due to frequent communications with China and migrations of Chinese people, Mid-Autumn Festival has become popular in other parts of the world, especially neighboring Asian countries where it is celebrated in the same way as in China, while others add their own customs.