Celebrating the moon and harvest.
Festival History & Legend
Also known as the Moon Festival and the Mooncake Festival, the Mid-Autumn Festival is a traditional festival for family reunion and to celebrate the harvest, that is based on the lunar calendar (15th day of the 8th month). The timing corresponds with the Autumnal Equinox, when the sun is exactly above the Equator, making both the day and night equal in length. The Harvest Moon, or the full moon nearest the autumnal equinox, is recognized to be the largest and brightest moon that also rises above the horizon faster than usual, and nearly at the same time each night - so the moon’s bright light is said to aid in the harvest.
Mid-Autumn festival is celebrated by many East and Southeast Asian people and is considered the second-most important holiday after Chinese New Year. There are several legends behind the festival, dating back 3,000 years. They include the story of Chang'e Flying to the Moon, or commemorating the dragon who brought rain for the crops, and even histories of the Emperor of China worshipping the moon for bountiful harvests. The festival is so important, Chinese people have a 3-day public holiday to celebrate it.
The Legend of Mid-Autumn Festival, Credit: China Highlights
Traditions & Celebrating
With large meals of friends and family in celebration of the fall harvest, it is often compared to North American Thanksgiving. But there are many other special traditions that are observed during Mid-Autumn Festival. The roundness of the moon represents the reunion of the family, so families and friends will have dinner together on the evening of the Festival, often outside in order to admire the full moon.
Lanterns, of any shape and colour, are also representative of the festival. People will carry around lanterns, or use them as decorations to symbolize the light of the moon, and in hopes of good fortune. Many will write good wishes on their lanterns, releasing them to fly into the sky or float on water.
As the name suggests, Mooncakes are the most common food associated with the festival, because of their round shape and sweet flavor. Mooncakes can be any size or flavour, but traditionally they are a pastry filled with lotus or red bean paste and have full egg yolks baked within them. Family members usually gather around and cut a mooncake into pieces and share its sweetness. Root & Seed's founder, Jennifer, remembers her father always cutting them up to share, reflecting, "it is so lovely now understanding the beautiful meaning behind that quiet activity."
Activities & Books
There are countless activities and resources to help our families learn about the history of Mid-Autumn Festival, and to help us bring the traditions to life through activities and crafts. But we appreciate our friends at the Little Kozzi Bookstore for compiling a list of their favourite books for our community to consider:
🌕 Big Mooncake for Little Star / 小星的大月餅 By Grace Lin
This title was first written in English and was later translated into Chinese. It’s a stunningly illustrated story around a mother and daughter pair, who made a mooncake together. In a very toddler-relatable plot, Mommy asks the daughter, Little Star, to leave the mooncake alone until it’s ready, but she ended taking a little nibble every night. It’s silly and whimsical, and introduces elements of Mid-Autumn Festival without being overly explicit about it. It is also a great introduction to the phases of the moon.
🥮 Mooncakes by Loretta Seto
This is another English title, for slightly older kids than Big Mooncake for Little Star, but a great introduction for learning about the myths and legends behind Mid-Autumn Festival.
Through cozy conversations with her parents, while gazing at the moon together, a little girl’s parents tell the story of not one, but three (!!) different tales that have been passed down for generations.
🏮 中秋節 [English Translation: Mid-Autumn Festival]
This is a beautifully constructed interactive pop-up book that features all the things that happen during this important festival in Chinese culture. It highlights the different phases of the moon, the folktales behind the festival, historical stories around using mooncakes to pass secret messages, as well as all the yummy goodies we eat during this time. This one is fully in Chinese, but it’s a lot of fun even for those who do not read it because of the engaging and interactive pieces.
And for those who prefer a digital download, Little Kozzi also offers:
🐰 My Bilingual Mid-Autumn Festival Activity Book by Pauline Lin
A Mid-Autumn Festival activity booklet with a variety of fun activities and crafts to learn about Mid-Autumn Festival. Created by Sweet Note Learning, the activities are great conversation starters to learn about the traditions and tales of Mid-Autumn Festival. The activity book is bilingual offering both traditional Chinese and English instructions for puzzles, colouring pages, crafts, and even vocabulary cards.
Do you have a special memory from Mid-Autumn Festival or a tradition that your family holds for the festival? Please share in the comments below.