Mid-Autumn Festival 中秋节
The joyous Mid-Autumn Festival was celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth moon, around the time of the autumn equinox(秋分qiū fēn ). Many referred to it simply as the "Fifteenth of the Eighth Moon".
This day was also considered as a harvest festival since fruits, vegetables and grain had been harvested by this time and food was abundant. Food offerings were placed on an altar set up in the courtyard. Apples, pears, peaches, grapes, pomegranates(石榴shí liu ), melons, oranges and pomelos(柚子yòu zi ) might be seen. Special foods for the festival included moon cakes, cooked taro(芋头yù tou )and water caltrope(菱角línɡ jiǎo ), a type of water chestnut resembling black buffalo horns. Some people insisted that cooked taro be included because at the time of creation, taro was the first food discovered at night in the moonlight. Of all these foods, it could not be omitted from the Mid-Autumn Festival.
The round moon cakes, measuring about three inches in diameter and one and a half inches in thickness, resembled Western fruitcakes in taste and consistency. These cakes were made with melon seeds(西瓜子xī ɡuā zǐ ), lotus seeds(莲籽lián zǐ ), almonds(杏仁xìnɡ rén ), minced meats, bean paste, orange peels and lard(猪油zhū yóu ). A golden yolk(蛋黄dàn huánɡ ) from a salted duck egg was placed at the center of each cake, and the golden brown crust was decorated with symbols of the festival. Traditionally, thirteen moon cakes were piled in a pyramid to symbolize the thirteen moons of a "complete year," that is, twelve moons plus one intercalary(闰月的rùn yuè de ) moon.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is a traditional festivity for both the Han and minority nationalities. The custom of worshipping the moon can be traced back as far as the ancient Xia and Shang Dynasties (2000 B.C.-1066 B.C.). In the Zhou Dynasty(1066 B.C.-221 B.C.), people hold ceremonies to greet winter and worship the moon whenever the Mid-Autumn Festival sets in. It becomes very prevalent in the Tang Dynasty(618-907 A.D.) that people enjoy and worship the full moon. In the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279 A.D.), however, people send round moon cakes to their relatives as gifts in expression of their best wishes of family reunion. When it becomes dark, they look up at the full silver moon or go sightseeing on lakes to celebrate the festival. Since the Ming (1368-1644 A.D. ) and Qing Dynasties (1644-1911A.D.), the custom of Mid-Autumn Festival celebration becomes unprecedented popular. Together with the celebration there appear some special customs in different parts of the country, such as burning incense(熏香xūn xiānɡ ), planting Mid-Autumn trees, lighting lanterns on towers and fire dragon dances. However, the custom of playing under the moon is not so popular as it used to be nowadays, but it is not less popular to enjoy the bright silver moon. Whenever the festival sets in, people will look up at the full silver moon, drinking wine to celebrate their happy life or thinking of their relatives and friends far from home, and extending all of their best wishes to them.