The Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節zhōngqiū jié) is one of the four most important holidays in the Chinese calendar and it marks the harvest period. The festival is held on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar with a full moon at night, corresponding to mid-September to early October of the Gregorian calendar. The Mid-Autumn festival symbolizes the family reunion and on this day, all families will appreciate the moon in the evening, because it is the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar, when the moon is at its fullest.
There is a beautiful myth about the Mid-Autumn festival, that is Chang ‘e flying to the moon. The myths associated with Chang’e explain the origin of moon worship during this day. In the ancient past, there was a hero named Hou Yi who was excellent at archery. His wife was Chang’e. One year, the ten suns rose in the sky together, causing great disaster to the people.
Yi shot down nine of the suns and left only one to provide light. An immortal admired Yi and sent him the elixir of immortality. Yi did not want to leave Chang’e and be immortal without her, so he let Chang’e keep the elixir.
However, Peng Meng, one of his apprentices, knew this secret. So, on the fifteenth of August in the lunar calendar, when Yi went hunting, Peng Meng broke into Yi’s house and forced Chang’e to give the elixir to him.
Chang’e refused to do so. Instead, she swallowed it and flew into the sky. Since she loved her husband and hoped to live nearby, she chose the moon for her residence. When Yi came back and learned what had happened, he felt so sad that he displayed the fruits and cakes Chang’e liked in the yard and gave sacrifices to his wife.
People soon learned about these activities, and since they also were sympathetic to Chang’e they participated in these sacrifices with Yi for luck and safety. The custom of praying to the moon on Mid-Autumn Day has been handed down for thousands of years since that time. Today, it is still an occasion for outdoor reunions among friends and relatives, watch the full moon, to prepare and eat mooncakes, a symbol of harmony and unity.