The Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar. Why is it called “mid-autumn” festival when it’s really only the start of the autumn season in the northern hemisphere? This because the lunar calendar is around 20 to 50 days slower than the Gregorian (solar) calendar. And according to the lunar calendar, the seventh month marks the beginning of autumn – this explains why we’re “in” mid-autumn now. Many legends are attributed to the origin of the festival in the region but here is a nutshell of what the respective countries celebrate the occasion for.
- Among the Chinese (in China and in other countries where the ethnic Chinese have made their home), the Mid-Autumn Festival, known as “zhongqiujie”, was traditionally to celebrate the movement of the moon and changing seasons that are closely tied to planting and harvesting. These days it’s about offering prayers and sacrifices to the moon, eating mooncakes, and playing with lanterns in the treasured company of family members.
- The Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated in Vietnam as a festival for children. “Têt Trung Thu” is celebrated with several activities, such as the worship of the God of Earth, carrying carp-shaped lanterns, and lion dance performances.
- In Korea, Chuseok is a major traditional harvest festival celebrated over three days. This year it falls on October 4 to 6 and the whole country goes on holiday for the three days. Chuseok is celebrated as thanksgiving for a good harvest and Koreans travel back to their hometowns to pay respects to their ancestors with ancestral worship rituals.
- The Japanese celebrate Tsukimi (literally it means moon viewing) also over three days, from October 4 to 6. In ancient times, aristocrats threw parties to view the harvest moon while reciting poems. In modern times, to celebrate, the Japanese eat Tsukimi dango (a type of rice flour confectionery) and Tsukimi soba or udon.
Illustration: Tony Wang at behance.net