Mid-Autumn Festival: Special time for Asians to watch the moon and gather

Mầm
05:00:01 - September 06, 2022

Full moon appears every month, but the full moon of the eighth lunar month is the most celebrated. This is one of the unique traditional festivals in Asian countries with special meanings and also attracts many tourists.

The Mid-Autumn Festival usually takes place on August 15 (lunar calendar), considered a good day to sacrifice to the Moon god to help the ancients predict the harvest. Today, it’s an occasion for families to gather to watch the moon and for children to play and join lantern parades. In 2022, the Mid-Autumn is on September 10 of the solar calendar.

Origin

The origin of the Mid-Autumn Festival, from the wet rice civilization of Vietnam or from Chinese culture, has not yet been clearly identified. However, there are three most well-known legends, namely Chang-Er and Hou Yi, King Tang Ming Huang visiting the Moon (China) and the legend of Cuoi (Vietnam).

In the first legend, according to Chinese folklore, the Jade Emperor who once ruled the world had 10 sons. All of them transformed into Suns, and began burning the Earth, harming the people as well as crops. The archer Hou Yi was summoned and successfully brought down nine of the Suns. He was granted the elixir of immortality, but instead of swallowing it, he gave it to his wife, Chang-Er for keeping.

When one of Hou Yi’s disciples tried to steal the elixir, Chang-Er swallowed it, then floated to the Moon and couldn’t get back to the Earth. A different version said that she would return to reunite with her husband every Mid-Autumn day. Hou Yi, distraught at the loss of his wife, burned incense and made food offerings to the Moon. Since then, worshiping the Moon has developed into a tradition in China.

Another version said that Hou Yi was given a pill by the Queen Mother of the West. He and Chang-Er each only need to drink half to live immortally. Hou Yi took it home and kept it in a box then went out. With curiosity, Chang-Er opened the box and saw the pill as soon as Hou Yi returned home. Afraid that she would be found rummaging things, she accidentally swallowed the pill and flew into the sky. Hou Yi intended to shoot her but couldn’t, so he could only see her fly to the Moon.

In the second legend, on the Mid-Autumn day, King Tang Ming Huang was blessed by a taoist priest to walk on the Moon. When he returned, nostalgic for the fairy scene he had seen, the king set the Mid-Autumn Festival.

In the third legend, Cuoi, a woodcutter, discovered a precious banyan tree capable of resurrection. Thanks to it, he saved many people. Nevertheless, the tree needs to be irrigated with clean water. Because of dirty watering once, the banyan tree uprooted and flew straight up into the sky. Cuoi chased after it, hooked the ax into the roots of the tree to hold on, but it was impossible. So both flew to the Moon together. Looking up at the Moon, especially on the 15th of the 8th lunar month, one can clearly see a dark shadow like an old tree with people sitting under it, the Vietnamese call it Cuoi sitting at the root of the banyan tree.

Mid-Autumn’s meanings

Asian culture has long respected the Moon and the Sun. The Sun represents the man and the Moon is like the woman in a married couple. On the 15th of the 8th lunar month, the Moon is the largest and most splendid, so people celebrate it. As for Vietnam, an agricultural country, in August when cultivation was completed, the weather calmed down, everything was relaxed, people held a festival to pray for the harvest.

According to archaeologists, the Mid-Autumn Festival in Vietnam has existed since ancient times, printed on Ngoc Lu bronze drums. In the epitaph of Doi Son Pagoda in 1121, since the Ly Dynasty, the Mid-Autumn Festival has been held in Thang Long citadel with boat racing, water puppetry and lantern parade.

The full moon is also considered a symbol of fullness and reunion, so family members often gather together on the Mid-Autumn Festival. Under the bright moonlight, people often arrange a banquet with moon cakes, green tea, lights, flowers; lion dance, lantern parade, etc. Many places also organize competitions for adults and children.

How Asian countries celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival

Vietnam

Near the Mid-Autumn Festival, Vietnamese people will send their family, reatives, partners, customers, etc. fine mooncake boxes. Mooncake is an important part of this occasion, it can be skin mooncake or scone, savory or sweet, round- or square-shaped. On this day, people often stay at home to drink tea, eat cake, chat or go out to the street to watch the moon and go for a walk. While children go to the lantern parade, watch the lion dance,… Vietnam’s traditional lanterns are handmade from bamboo and glass paper; more modern ones are made of plastic, powered by batteries.

Lion dance is also a unique activity with a group of people dressed in yellow and red, dancing and beating drums, the leader wearing a mask of a lion’s head. Together they perform to stir up the holiday.

China

The Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the four major festivals of the Chinese people. In the festival, family members all arrange to return home to gather, chat and enjoy the warmth. Other activities include releasing lanterns, lighting paper lanterns, solving puzzles, lion dance, etc. China and Chinatowns around the world also fire fireworks.

South Korea

The Mid-Autumn Festival in South Korea is called Chuseok. Previously, Chuseok took place in the fall, the harvest season. On this day, Korean people cook newly harvested products such as meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, rice cakes,… to respectfully worship their ancestors.

Japan

Japanese people call the Mid-Autumn Festival Tsukimi or Otsukimi, which means “Moon-viewing”. This traditional festival was introduced to Japan about 1,000 years ago. Although no longer using the lunar calendar, the Mid-Autumn Festival is still celebrated in Japan every year. On this occasion, the Japanese display reeds, watch the full moon and enjoy traditional dishes, especially Tsukimi Dango – a round, white sticky rice cake representing the Moon.

Thailand

On the Mid-Autumn Festival, everyone participates in the moon worshiping ceremony, praying for luck in front of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara and Eight Immortals. Above the altar are peaches and mooncakes. Thai people believe that by doing so, Eight Immortals will help bring offerings to the Moon to wish Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara longevity and the gods will bless them.

Cambodia

Unlike other Asian nations, Cambodians often celebrate the full moon festival Ok Om Bok on the 15th day of the 10th lunar month. The offerings include flat rice, bananas, potatoes, sugar cane, cassava soup,… In the early morning, they will do the traditional moon-worshiping festival. In the evening, people put their offerings on a tray on a large mat and wait for the Moon to rise. When the Moon appears, Cambodians sincerely pray and ask for blessings. After the ceremony, the adults stuff the flat rice into children’s mouths until they can’t stuff anymore in order to pray for good things for the family. In addition, they also hold a contest to release wind lanterns, sending their wishes to the Moon god.

Other countries such as Singapore, Myanmar, Philippines or North Korea all have their own customs and traditions, besides viewing the moon, eating mooncakes, lantern parades,…

Mid-Autumn Festival: Special time for Asians to watch the moon and gather

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