Today, many east Asian nations celebrate Mid-Autumn Festivals, timed with the harvest moon – including China, Taiwan, Hong Hong, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam. This shared holiday is generally a day off work for the whole country, and jumps around on the Roman calendar because it’s based on the lunar one.
Going under various names, Mid-Autumn Festivals occur on the first full moon after the Fall equinox. The position of the moon is important for rice farming, and mid-Autumn festivals are linked this way to agriculture. East Asian countries have their own mythologies and folk traditions associated with Mid-Autumn festivals. Japan has a story about a visible goddess and rabbit in the moon. Koreans believe it’s a day to celebrate their ancestors. China’s traditions, carried out in several other countries as well, involve lighting thousands of red paper lanterns.
All Mid-Autumn Festivals involve food, and most include some form of “moon cakes.” Chinese and Vietnamese moon cakes are baked and branded with characters; Korean mooncakes are made from rice flour and steamed over pine needles; Japanese mooncakes are spherical, like little moons.
In general these Mid-Autumn Festivals are about families getting together to express gratitude, and celebrate seasonal change. They often stretch to three days, incorporating the days before and after, and rank among the biggest holidays of the year.
So to East Asia and the entire diaspora: Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!
Doodle by Cynthia Yuan Cheng