Mid-Autumn Festival

Hi, guys! It is me again. I just received a Matcha flavoured mooncake from my friend and then realised that the Mid-Autumn Festival is around the corner. This is the third year I celebrate the traditional festival alone in the hostel.

The early form of Mid-Autumn Festival is called the Moon Festival originated from the custom of moon worship since the Zhou Dynasty over 3000 years ago. The harvest moon worship was done in autumn by the ancient Chinese emperors annually to wish for a plentiful harvest in the following year. Ancient Chinese believed that the emperor was the chosen one and was closest to God and can communicate with God. The practice of moon worship during harvest season is usually combined with the celebration of harvesting products. During the Western Zhou Dynasty, the kings offered sacrifices to the moon in fall. The custom of offering sacrifices to the moon is due to the belief in the practice of worshipping the moon goddess. The young ladies worship the moon goddess for blessings to be pretty and attractive which can bring a happy marriage. Worship to the god of matchmaking during mid-autumn is believed to be able to help you end your single life. This belief still exists now. Later, the tradition was adopted by the royal family and government servants, finally among the rich merchants and common citizens. The strict and clear cut social status system in ancient China determine what the people from each status can do and gain. However, public exam, property and money can be used to change the social status. The term ‘mid-autumn’ was only referred to as the time and season during the Warring States Period.

In the Tang Dynasty, moon-gazing or appreciation of the moon became a popular event among the upper class. Following the emperors, the rich merchants and officials would organise big parties in their courts. They drank alcohol while appreciating the moon. Music and dances were performed for entertainment. The common citizens only afford to pray to the moon for a good harvest. Later, the common citizens began appreciating moon together with family annually because the country is strong and stable while life was getting more peaceful and easier. During moon-gazing, scholars praised the moon with poems, paintings and writing pieces which left a lot of masterpiece regarding the moon. Those parties had become the stage for the scholars that passed the public exam, upper-class ladies and artist to show off their talent and to get attention for potential employers, teachers and marriage partners. The scholars that pass the public exam were invited to the party in the royal court to enjoy the festival with the emperor and were gifted with mooncake by the emperor which is an honour.

The 15th day of the 8th lunar month was established as the Mid-Autumn Festival in the Northern Song Dynasty. Offering sacrifice to the moon had become a custom which is still applied by some people. During the Song Dynasty, there is also the custom of eating mooncake that is offered as a sacrifice to the goddess of the moon together with fresh fruits after the worship and prayer among the upper class. Besides that, eating mooncake while appreciating the moon with family and friends annually has become a custom until now. We also send mooncakes to friends and family members during the festival as a gift. Do you know about the origin of mooncake? Nowadays, mooncake has become profit-oriented commercial products while Mid-Autumn festival is around the corner and the advertisements or marketing technique was focusing on the flavour, material, appearance and creativity. Young children often eat mooncake anytime they want and eat because they are told to do so. They never understand the stories behind eating mooncake and the importance of the ceremonial act of whole family gathering around during Mid-Autumn Festival. There is a saying of the tradition of eating mooncakes during the festival began in the Yuan Dynasty. The dynasty was ruled by the Mongols. Mooncake was the envelope to pass messages among people that plan to rebel against the Mongols. Then, in the Ming Dynasty, eating mooncake on Mid-Autumn Festival as a sign of reunion and appreciation of the unknown hero’s effort in overthrowing the Mongols from the throne to save the common citizens from sufferings. During the Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasty, the festival has become popular and as important as Chinese New Year. More activities were promoted to celebrate festivals like burning pagoda and dragon dance performance.

There is a variety of mooncake available in the market now. Either the traditional mooncake or the pudding mooncake or snow skin mooncake to be eaten during the festival depends on your liking. The variety of flavours are increasing year by year. However, I seriously cannot accept the taste of durian mooncake. I prefer eating mooncake and durian separately.

During my childhood, it was always raining during Mid-Autumn Festival so I never get to appreciate the moon on that particular festive night though I appreciate the moon a lot on other nights. My dad likes to tell us about the tales regarding the goddess, the rabbit and the woodsman living on the moon. Those stories clearly showed that they were punished or dictated to stay on the moon far away from other gods and goddesses so I did not understand why the stories all ended up with ‘they live happily ever after.’ The goddess was separated from the husband while the woodsman was cutting the tree on the moon forever because the tree just cannot be cut. The rabbit jumped into a fire to sacrifice itself to be eaten by a starving old man and then sent to the moon to make medicines for longevity. Honestly, those stories were not suitable for children. My dad always wanted to bring me for a walk around the neighbourhood at night with lighted colourful traditional lanterns he bought but it was raining every year.

In short, appreciating the moon or eating mooncake during Mid-Autumn Festival are more like an excuse for a family gathering to strengthen the bond after separated due to the busy work or study schedule. The Mid-Autumn Festival in Malaysia is not bustling with excitement and activities because it is not a public holiday. Anyway, Happy Mid-Autumn Festival and remember to eat mooncake with your loved ones.