Monday, October 8, 2012

Mid-Autumn Festival

On the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, the Chinese celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival.  There are many conflicting stories as to what this 3000-year-old celebration is about.  Some say it has to do with ancient moon worship.  Some say it is a celebration of the end of the harvest season, somewhat like America's Thanksgiving.  Others tell the story of a woman named Chang'e (say "chong-uh"), the mythological moon goddess of immortality, who ate a pill and became immortal, flying into the air and landing on the moon where she is destined to stay. 
Her husband, Houyi (say "hoe-yee"), lives either on the earth or the sun, but the only way they can be together is if the hare (or the jade rabbit) who lives on the moon pounds his herbs and makes her another immortality pill.  Other legends say she is helping the rabbit make pills for the gods, and another says that she IS the rabbit.

The important part of this celebration, whatever its history, is that families have a reunion at this time (the second most important festival for Chinese after the Spring Festival), and they go outside to admire the full moon and eat moon cakes together.  Moon cakes are the nastiest dessert since 10-yr-old fruit cake, and has even been compared to that.  We were given many samples by our university, friends, and we bought some ourselves because they were in a really cool dragon tin I wanted.  The filling is made of a paste from jujubes, red beans, or other fruits, rather like a combo between almond paste and marzipan.  Anyway, the worst part is they are 1000 calories apiece! (I'd rather have cheesecake.)  But of course we sent these pictures home to all our family and told them to go outside, eat something round, and sing our favorite "I See the Moon" song while thinking of us on September 30.

PS  The moon really does look like that rabbit shape from this side of the world!

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