Mooncake Festival

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By Leska Ang

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Friday, September 5, 2014


THE Mid-Autumn Festival, or zhongqiu jie, is an annual harvest festival of China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Vietnam celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month – or on September 8 of this year. With the festival being an important and intangible holiday to the culture, it is celebrated as a three-day public holiday in China.

The festival is also more commonly known by another name – the Mooncake Festival. During the months of September and October, this round, golden brown pastry can be found practically anywhere in China or in the local Chinatowns of our country.

They are roughly the size of the circle your fingers make when you make an ‘OK sign’. Mooncakes, or yuebing in Chinese, are the equivalent of tikoy during Chinese New Year and are typically eaten together by the family while watching the full moon.

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The roundness of a mooncake symbolizes wholeness, harmony, and unity and, because of this, it is meant to be shared and enjoyed by the whole family with the head of the family slicing the mooncake into small wedges and distributing it to the members. Its roundness is also meant to represent the moon during the season as it is at its roundest. Don’t be surprised to find a whole egg yolk in the middle of some varieties – it’s supposed to represent the moon.

The history of the Mid-Autumn Festival dates back to China’s Shang Dynasty (1600 to 1046 BC), when emperors would worship the moon in hopes that it would bring greater harvest during the season. The festival would only begin to gain popularity many centuries later during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE).

References to Mid-Autumn Festival is scattered throughout China’s lengthy history and folklore. Moon worship, a central part of the festival, is linked to the ancient belief that the moon is closely associated with rejuvenation.

Offerings are most commonly made to Chang’e, the Chinese Moon Goddess of Immortality, who is said to live on the celestial body. The many variations of myths telling of Chang’e all include an archer Hou Yi and a pill of immortality that Chang’e consumes, causing her to float towards the moon where she eventually lands.

In some of the myths, Hou Yi, Chang’e’s husband, would lay out a table of fruits and sweet pastries in honor of his wife who he misses. People would then follow suit and prepare a table and pray for luck to Chang’e who looks down on them.

Historically, the festival was a time of jubilation for the successful reaping of crops. Now, as the tradition has greatly evolved through time, mooncakes are often given as gifts to family and friends during the mid-autumn season. It is an occasion for reunion, prayer, and thanksgiving.

Other common modern practices during the celebration of this holiday are the burning of incense in reverence to deities, lion and dragon dances, and the lighting of lanterns.

While Mid-Autumn Festival is a primarily time for family, it is also an auspicious time for love. Girls would burn incense and pray for Chang’e to bless them in romantic endeavors. Lovers spend the holiday together, eating mooncake and watching the moon, and couples who are physically separated from each other agree to look at the moon from where they are and enjoy looking at the same night sky as if they were together.

Although the Chinese culture has seeped in and laid its roots locally through the Filipino-Chinese community, the festival is not as widely celebrated as in the Mainland.

The Mooncake Festival is often just a period of exchanging mooncakes with friends and family and maybe a round of the Mooncake Dice Game. Still, the significance of the holiday is not lost as the different ways of celebrating the holiday all lead towards unity, prosperity, and wellness.*

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on September 05, 2014.

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