Cultures Revealed: Chinese Moon Festival

Have you ever had something unfortunate happen to you at work, such as an important document getting misplaced or a customer making several unreasonable demands at once, and a colleague promptly utters the worn-out expression, “It must be a full moon out today!”? It’s common folklore that a full moon represents the time of the month when people act, well, a little crazy. In the Far East, this belief is not widely shared. In fact, in places like China and Vietnam, it’s actually quite the opposite, particularly during this time of year.

One of the most popular national holidays in China is the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar (September 30th this year). Dating as far back as 3,000 years ago the Chinese have been lunar worshiping, offering gifts of food and drinks in hopes of a full harvest and good luck in return. A full moon, specifically, represents a time of happiness and prosperity for the Chinese.

There are many different legends on how the “Moon Festival” originated in China, but today a full moon during the autumn season is regarded as a time for families to come together and also for young singles to (hopefully) find partners during traditional dances that are organized for matchmaking purposes. The most commonly eaten snack during the Mid-Autumn Festival is the appropriately named mooncake. These pastries, generally enjoyed in small wedges with tea, consist of a sweet shell or crust and contain a rich filling made from red beans or lotus seed paste. Because each cake takes a considerable amount of time to make – the top of the treat is often decorated with intricate Chinese characters – they are considered delicacies and can be relatively expensive to buy.

So next time an acquaintance blames the full moon on a silly mishap, you can let him know that he needs to make a trip to China to re-evaluate his viewpoint!

TOPIC: Festivals/Holidays
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