The Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the most important holidays in the Chinese calendar. The festival is intricately linked to the legends of Chang E, the mythical Moon Goddess of Immortality. According to “Li-Ji”, an ancient Chinese book recording customs and ceremonies, the Chinese Emperor should offer sacrifices to the sun in spring and the moon in autumn. The 15th day of the 8th lunar month is the day called “Mid-Autumn”. The night on the 15th of the 8th lunar month is also called “Night of the Moon”. Under the Song Dynasty (420), the day was officially declared for Mid-Autumn Festival.
Because of its central role in the Mid-Autumn festival, mooncakes remained popular even in recent years. For many, they form a central part of the Mid-Autumn festival experience such that it is now commonly known as ‘Mooncake Festival’.
Accompanying the celebration, there are additional cultural and/or regional customs, including:
- Eating mooncakes. Typical mooncakes are round or rectangular pastries. A rich thick filling usually made from red bean or lotus seed paste is surrounded by a thin crust and may contain yolks from salted duck eggs. Mooncakes are usually eaten in small wedges accompanied by Chinese tea.
- Matchmaking. In some parts of China, dances are held for young men and women to find partners. “One by one, young women are encouraged to throw their handkerchiefs to the crowd. The young man who catches and returns the handkerchief has a chance of romance.”
- Lanterns. Carrying brightly lit lanterns, lighting lanterns on towers, floating sky lanterns.