Tomorrow will be the traditional Mid-Autumn Festival, which is celebrated in most Asian countries. It is probably the second grandest one after the Spring Festival in China. It is always held on lunar August 15th, close to the middle of the autumn, so called Mid-Autumn.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is also known as the Moon Festival, as at that time of the year, the moon is at its fullest and brightest. On that day, family reunions to appreciate the moon and eat moon cakes together, hence it is called Festival of Reunion.
The day is also considered a harvest festival, since it falls in between late September to early October based on the western calendar, a cool and perfect time to celebrate the harvest which has just concluded.
There are a number of folklores and legends regarding to the origins of the Mid-Autumn Festival, but the most widely accepted tale is the story of Hou Yi and Chang E.
It is said that in ancient times there were ten suns coexisting in the sky, blazing the earth, drying rivers and lakes, scorching all crops and driving people to starvation.
To save the world from misery, a great archer named Hou Yi ascended to the top of the Kunlun Mountain and shot down nine superfluous suns. Hou Yi’s extraordinary deeds won the love and respect of the populace. People came from far and wide to learn from him, including Peng Meng, an evil man.
Also because of his heroic feat, Hou Yi was rewarded with an elixir of immortality, by taking which, it was said, one would ascend immediately to heaven and become a celestial being.
Unwilling to leave his wife, a beautiful girl name Chang E, Hou Yi handed the elixir to Chang E. Chang E hid the parcel in a treasure box at her dresser when, unexpectedly, it was seen by Peng Meng.
One day when Hou Yi was out for hunting, Peng Meng, sword in hand, broke into Chang Eâ€™s room and forced her to hand over the elixir. Aware that she was unable to defeat Peng Meng, Chang E turned round, took up the elixir and swallowed it in one gulp. As soon as she swallowed the elixir, Chang E started to float into the sky toward the Moon.
After returning home at night and learning what had happened, Hou Yi was so grief stricken that he called out the name of his beloved wife. To his surprise, he found that the moon was especially clear and bright and on it there was a swaying silhouette similar to that of his wife.
Thinking of his wife, Hou Yi placed an incense table in the back garden and put Chang E’s favorite fresh fruits onto the table. By doing so, Hou Yi held at a distance a memorial ceremony for his beloved wife now being separated from him.
Informed of the news, other common people followed Hou Yi’s suit, praying kindhearted Chang and courageous Hou Yi would reunion someday. From then on, the custom of worshiping the moon and anticipating for a family reunion on the mid-autumn day has been widespread.
Traditional Chinese festival series: Dragon Boat Festival