Top 3 Ways to Celebrate the Moon Festival in Style
Ever found yourself on a quiet night, unable to break away from the moon’s alluring gaze?
Since the dawn of civilization, mankind has been drawn to the moon’s mystique. We have countless moon stories, poems, superstitions, and even sent a man up there to make sure it’s not made out of cheese.
Don’t look over your shoulder at it now, but this weekend promises to have a bright full moon, marking an ancient Chinese holiday.
Every year on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month, Chinese celebrate the ancient Mid-Autumn Festival —or zhong qiu jie, also known as the Moon Festival.
What began 3,000 years ago, as a religious ritual to pray for a full harvest, has become the second-most-celebrated holiday after the Chinese New Year. It’s a time for families to get together, almost like a Chinese version of Thanksgiving. This year, we bring you some chic ways to celebrate.
Make Your Own Moon Cake
What were once sacrificial offerings to honor deities, moon cakes have become indispensable holiday delicacies. The round cakes symbolize the wholeness of family reunion, harmony, and good fortune. That’s why they are cut into small wedges to be shared among friends and family.
The moon cake is not only a favorite pastry of young and old, it’s also one of the most difficult to make. In ancient times, it could take up to a month to make one! Nowadays, the process is much shorter thanks to molds and ovens. But the variety has grown exponentially—from blueberry to Chinese sausage, there’s a moon cake for everyone.
Fortunately for those health-conscious moon-aficionados out there, you can now find moon cake kits to cut down on grease and preservatives. Making moon cakes is a great way to get the whole family involved, and everyone can add in a little personal flair (like peanut-butter and jelly flavors)!
Throw a Legend-Inspired Costume Party
This year, throw your friends a Moon Festival-themed party, replete with traditional costumes to reenact ancient legends. The most famous of all is Chang’e, the Lady of the Moon.
One version of her story, which sounds a bit like an ancient soap opera, goes as follows:
A goddess gave Chang’e and her husband Houyi an elixir of eternal life. But just as they were about to become immortal, nine evil vultures suddenly soared into the sky and transformed themselves into nine scorching suns.
The earth became extremely hot, and people started collapsing over the parched land. In panic, Chang’e hastily drank half the elixir. As she handed her husband the rest, the bottle dropped and the liquid spilled on the ground. No potion was left for him.
Houyi dwelled on his miserable fate only for a moment. He then resolved to end people’s sufferings. He took out an arrow from his quiver. Aiming his magical bow up at the sky, he shot down a vulture-sun. Then another. Then another—until only one sun was left. Earth was rescued.
Just then the potion started to take effect. Chang’e felt herself lifted off the ground, and then higher and higher towards the sky. Drifting above the world below, she flew to the moon because it was the closest to the earth, and to her beloved husband.
Today, on the fifteenth evening of the eighth lunar month, Chinese people still join Houyi in sending wishes to Chang’e who misses him, up on the moon. You can see her beautiful face on the boxes of Moon Cake boxes.
So this year, for a change of pace (and to burn off those moon cake calories), try reenacting this story with your loved ones, complete with your own props and costumes!
Go Moon Gazing
Back in the day, people would sit in front of their houses to watch the full moon. Today, you can take a blanket to your local park to observe the Moon Palace under a sea of glittering stars. You can even download an app to help you locate the constellations!
Be sure to look for the Jade Rabbit, a trusty companion of Chang’e. Legend has it that three deities wanted to test the characters of a fox, a monkey, and a rabbit. So they pretended to be hungry beggars and asked them for food. The fox and monkey had plenty to spare, but refused to share any of it with the beggars. The rabbit had no extra food, but was willing to help. Guess what it did?
You’ll probably never guess, but the rabbit leaped into a burning fire, sacrificing itself so that the beggars would have something to eat. Touched by its mercy, the three deities granted it immortal life in the Palace of the Moon, where it keeps Chang’e company.
There are many ways to celebrate the Moon Festival, but none better than basking in the warmth of family and friends, sharing delicious moon cakes, and listening to ancient legends under the moonlight.
September 20, 2012