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By the full moon, the Chinese are completing the harvest, and the round disk of the night star (corresponding in the Chinese tradition to the feminine) symbolizes fertility and prosperity. Following ancient beliefs, many incense is ignited to appease Chanye, the mythical resident of the moon. Her companion is a rabbit that pounds in a mortar the drug of immortality. According to legend, the beautiful Chanye mistakenly drank the potion of immortality, which served as a reward to her beloved Howie. A well-aimed archer managed to bring down nine stars whose light could overheat the earth, for which the Emperor gave him an elixir, which he was supposed to drink in small sips. Having gulped the forbidden drink, Chanye flew to the moon, and Huoi after death ascended into the sun. Since then, lovers can only meet once a year, on the 15th day of the eighth month.
During the lunar festival, the streets are full of excitement - families walk until the morning, which children are especially happy about. They are not averse to feasting on “moon cakes”, which are abundant everywhere. By the way, it is believed that these sweets played a special role in the history of China. With their help, in the 14th century, public figures managed to raise an uprising against the Yuan Dynasty. Despite the ban on holding meetings, activist Liu Futong handed out a lot of gingerbread cookies, each of which had a note urging to overthrow the government.
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Legends of other legends of the moon
According to another legend, on that day, “Man on the Moon” was spotted in a hotel where a tablet was written. When asked, he said that he wrote down the names of all the happy couples who were destined to marry and live happily forever. Accordingly, just as June is the traditional month for exchanging wedding ceremonies in the west, many Chinese weddings are held in the eighth lunar month, with the fifteenth day being the most popular.
Of course, the most famous legend surrounding the Moon Festival concerns its possible role in Chinese history. Overloaded by the Mongols in the thirteenth century, the Chinese threw off their oppressors in 1368 AD. It is said that moon cakes, which the Mongols did not eat, were an ideal way to hide and go through the plans of rebellion.
The seeds were instructed not to eat moon cakes until the day of the lunar holiday, which occurred when the rebellion took place. (In another version, plans were sent to moon cakes during several years of mid-autumn festivals, but the basic idea is the same).
How to Celebrate the Moon Festival
Today, the Chinese celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival with dancing, feasts and a moonlit look. Not to mention moon cakes. While baking is a common feature of most Chinese celebrations, moon cakes are inextricably linked to the Moon Festival. One type of traditional moon cake is filled with lotus seed paste (see Side photo). Roughly the size of a human palm, these moon cakes are quite full, designed to be cut diagonally in blocks and passed around. This explains their rather high price (about $ 5.00 in Canada). Warning: the salty yolk in the middle, representing the full moon, is an acquired taste.
More complex versions of moon cakes contain four egg yolks (representing the four phases of the moon). Besides the lotus seed paste, other traditional fillings include red beans and black bean paste. Unfortunately for diets, moon cakes are quite high in calories.
While in the past, mooncakes took up to four weeks, automation greatly accelerated this process.
Today, moon cakes can be filled with everything from dates, nuts and fruits to Chinese sausages. More exotic creations include moon tea pies with green tea and ping pei or moon snowman cakes, southeast Asian variations made from cooked glutinous rice flour. Haagen-Daz even joined the action by introducing a line of moon ice cream patties in Asian markets.
Given the complexity of their creation, most people prefer to buy their moon cakes instead of creating them. You will find them in Asian bakeries starting around mid-August. Meanwhile, for those who have a culinary slant, here are a few recipes.
When is it celebrated?
If the Chinese New Year is worship of the sun, then Mid-Autumn is the time to worship the night luminary. The holiday is celebrated on the night of the 15th to the 16th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. Usually this is the end of September or the beginning of October.
Mid-Autumn Festival in China is also called the Moon Festival. It is believed that she is on this day the largest, the most round and the most beautiful. The fullness of the luminary symbolizes several important values at once: fertility, the unity of a large family, beauty, success, love. And also - homesickness or loved ones who were far away. A very beautiful legend is associated with the holiday. This is a romantic story about archer Hou Yi and his lover Chang'e.
Mid-Autumn Festival in China: a legend
In ancient times, there were 10 suns. They went to heaven in turn, but one day they ascended simultaneously. The heat from them almost destroyed everything on the planet, but the brave archer Hou Yi shot down 9 stars with arrows. The Empress of heaven has since favored him and has given him an elixir that grants immortality and heavenly life as a deity.
The archer had Chang'e's beloved wife, to whom he gave the magic drink for storage. When Hou Yi was absent, a bad man came to the house and wanted to become immortal. He threatened Chang'e, and she was forced to drink the elixir herself so that he would not fall into bad hands. Immediately after this, the woman became a deity. She transferred to the moon, which is closest to Earth, and began to live there alone. Together with her there is only a jade hare, which in a mortar interprets the potion of immortality.
Chang'e is forced to yearn for her husband from afar. Howe also grieved, looking at the night light. One day the moon seemed especially close to him, he ran after it with all his might, but could not catch up. Then the yearning husband began in his garden to make offerings to his wife from her favorite dishes and incense. People who learned this sad story also sacrificed food to the goddess Chang'e and asked for her protection. So a holiday arose.
Moon Festival History
The first written mention of it dates back to the Zhou era. Their age is about three thousand years. In those days, rulers every year after harvesting sacrificed to the moon so that it would make the land fertile next year.
During the Tang Dynasty (618-907), commoners adopted the tradition of admiring the moon and making offerings to it. She took root. In the 10-13th centuries, when the Song Dynasty ruled, the holiday was celebrated widely, gradually overgrown with magnificent ceremonies and rituals. Starting from the 14th century, it began to be considered one of the main ones and remains so until now. How is Mid-Autumn Festival celebrated in China?
Lunar Gingerbread Cookies
On this day, all family members gather in the open night sky. The tables are set. They exhibit round fruits: watermelons, melons, plums, grapes, apples, grapefruits, etc. Mandatory food on the Mid-Autumn Festival in China is the “moon gingerbread” (yuebin). They are round, like a disk of a night luminary. They depict the goddess Chang'e, the frog into which, according to some legends, she turned into her palace, the moon hare, or simply beautiful patterns.
"Moon cakes" symbolize the well-being and happy family reunion. In anticipation of the celebration, they are sold in all shops and supermarkets. It is customary to give them to friends and acquaintances. After the ritual worship of the moon, the cakes are eaten.
How is Mid-Autumn Festival celebrated in China?
On this day, the streets of the cities are beautifully decorated. Everywhere lanterns burn, lights sparkle. An atmosphere of warmth, unity is created. Families try to get together for the holiday. Food is presented as gifts. Children are given moon bunnies. On the streets are festivals with songs, dances, theatrical performances. Everything is dedicated to the moon: they admire it, read poetry about it. Lanterns are launched in memory of the love of the goddess Chang'e and archer Hou I.
Particular attention is paid to the older generation. Elderly people are surrounded by attention and care. In villages, families spend the night in the fresh air, under a full moon. The tables are set. Relatives regale themselves, meditate on a bright star, look for the shadows of Changye and the moon hare on it. They recall those who are no longer in this world.
Traditions of celebration in different provinces
China is a large country with a large population. The traditions of the Mid-Autumn Festival in China vary by location. Each province has its own legends, beliefs, and customs.
- In some places, a dragon dance is organized. Tourists can see it, for example, in Hong Kong. A burning dragon with incense sticks stuck into it sweeps through the streets of the city, winding in a fancy dance.
- In the Longyan County, they cut out the middle of the "moon cake", which they give to the older generation of the family. This hints that there are secrets that young people do not need to know about because of their age.
- In Jiangsu Province, there is Wuxi County, where it is customary to burn incense "Duxiang" at the Moon Festival in the evening. A pot of aromatic resin is wrapped in silk, which depicts a night luminary.
- In the city of Dongguan, single boys and girls burn incense under the moon, asking the spirits for help in finding love.
- In Hejian County, located in Hebei Province, rain on a holiday is considered a bad omen. It is called "bitter" because it predicts a tasteless crop.
Mid-Autumn Festival in China is a vibrant event. Tourists who visit it are immersed in a special atmosphere of warmth, poetry, joy. Participation in traditional holidays is the best way to get acquainted with the culture of a foreign country, to feel your involvement with local residents.