The Mid-Autumn Festival  is a popular harvest festival celebrated by Chinese people and dates back over 3,000 years to moon worship in China. It is also referred to as also known as the Moon Festival, or in Chinese, Zhongqiu Jie (traditional Chinese: 中秋節), or the Lantern or Mooncake Festival.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, which is usually around  late September or early October in the Gregorian calendar. For 2009, it is today, October 3.

It is one of the two most important holidays in the Chinese calendar, the other being the Chinese New Year. It is a legal holiday in several countries.

Farmers celebrate the end of the summer harvesting season on this date.

mooncakes

mooncakes

Traditionally, on this day, Chinese family members and friends will gather to admire the bright mid-autumn harvest moon, and eat moon cakes and pomeloes (Chinese grapefruit) outside under the moon. Carrying brightly lit lanterns, lighting lanterns on towers, and floating sky lanterns is also popular.

In ancient China, emperors followed the rite of offering sacrifices to the sun in spring and to the moon in autumn.  Later aristocrats and literary figures helped expand the ceremony to common people who enjoyed the full, bright moon on that day, worshipped it and expressed their thoughts and feelings under it.

It is a date that parallels the autumn and spring Equinoxes of the solar calendar, when the moon is supposedly at its fullest and roundest.

chang-e

Chang'e

Another tradition is burning incense in reverence to deities including Chang’e, the Chinese goddess of the moon.

Unlike many lunar deities in other cultures who personify the moon, Chang’e only lives on the moon. The lunar crater “Chang’e 1” is named after her.

Chang’e is the subject of several legends in Chinese mythology, most of which incorporate several of the following elements: Houyi the Archer, a benevolent or malevolent emperor, an elixir of life, and of course, the moon.

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