The Mid-Autumn Festival takes place on the 15th day of the eighth month of the Chinese calendar. On the more widely used Gregorian calendar, this date varies, however, this year, on September 10, Chinese communities across the world gathered to celebrate the festival under the full moon.
In accordance with the Lunar calendar, the Mid-Autumn Festival traditionally celebrates the year’s bountiful harvest season. The celebration is rooted in the prevalence of agriculture in China’s history.
The festival was first celebrated in China during the Zhou Dynasty (1045 to 221 BC). It began as emperors worshipped the moon goddess in hopes of a plentiful harvest for the upcoming year.
Today, the Mid-Autumn Festival has largely lost its agricultural significance, but is regularly celebrated in active Chinese communities worldwide.
Jinru Pan, a fifth-year management specialist and linguistics minor, and a student of Chinese descent, shared her reflections on the festival with The Medium.
“Traditionally, there are some mythologies that we keep hearing from our parents or even our family,” says Pan as she explains the origins of the Mid-Autumn Festival.
There are several concepts and stories about why the festival is celebrated, one of which revolves around the moon goddess Chang’e. The story, which translates to “Chang’e Flying to the Moon,” has many different iterations, and involve several other characters of Chinese mythology, including the archer Hou Yi, and the Moon Rabbit (also known as the Jade Rabbit or the Hare). Originating from this traditional tale, Chinese people decided to organize a festival to commemorate her departure to the moon.
Aside from the origins of the Mid-Autumn Festival, celebrations focus on several themes, the most important one being that of family reunion.
“This is a festival about gathering with family. To me personally, most importantly, I get the day off when I’m in China and I get to meet with my family,” says Pan as she explains what she enjoys about the Mid-Autumn Festival.
While there is no statutory holiday for the Mid-Autumn Festival in most countries other than China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, to name a few, this year’s festival took place during the weekend of September 10 to 11, allowing people to hold celebrations deep into the night. Chinese people were able to celebrate while the moon was at its brightest and without the fear of being late for work the next day.
The celebrations all around the globe are never short of exciting. To celebrate, people bake mooncakes, which are sweet, glutinous pastries made with lotus seed paste. The dessert is commonly consumed during the festival and is considered a cultural delicacy.
Other activities include making or buying colourful lanterns and carrying them around, guessing lantern riddles, and admiring the full moon.
Due to the presence of Chinese communities within the Greater Toronto Area, a celebration underwent near Exhibition Place. Participants were invited to celebrate their culture, and reconnect with the community by watching the release of glimmering LED water lanterns alongside friends and family.
Due to the hectic lives that university students lead, many put off or forget about meeting with family for extended periods. “I see the [Mid-Autumn Festival] as an excuse for me to get to meet family,” states Pan.