For those of you who don’t know Monday 24th September, or the 15th of the 8th month on the lunar calendar, was Mid-Autumn Festival, one of the more major Chinese festivals.
The legend of the Mid-Autumn festival is that of Chang E:
‘Once upon a time there were 10 suns in the sky, which resulted in the scorching and dying crops causing famine among the land. The Queen of Heaven didn’t want to see her people suffering so she ordered a famous archer, Hou Yi, to shoot down 9 of the 10 suns to bring everything into order. After he did this people came from far and wide to learn from him, including a man named Peng Meng. Later, Hou Yi married a beautiful woman named Chang E and they lived happily together.
One day, to thank Hou Yi, the Queen of Heaven gave him an elixir of life, enough for 2 people, as he wanted to spend forever with his wife. They decided that they would drink it together on the 15th of the 8th month, but unfortunately Peng Meng overheard and wanted the elixir for himself. So, whilst Hou Yi was out hunting, Peng Meng decided to go to Hou Yi’s house, intending to drink it himself, however Chang E was home. Chang E, knowing that she could not prevent Hou Yi by self-defence, so she drank the potion as her only choice. The moment she drank it she began floating up to heaven, as the potion was too much for one individual, and ended up living on the moon, as it was the closest to Earth.
Hou Yi came back and discovered his wife was not home, causing him immense sadness and laid out her favourite foods to her as a sacrifice to tempt her to come back home.’
On Mid-Autumn Festival, it is tradition to eat mooncake, which is not particularly similar to western cakes. The mooncake I have normally consists of lotus seed paste with a yolk in the centre, and it’s relatively sweet, but there are many other varieties, such as one with red beans or ‘five kernels and roast pork’ but the lotus seeds with double yolk has to be my favourite.
As a disclaimer, we normally have nowhere near this much mooncake, in fact, most years we go without, but we had relatives from China come over which is why there’s so many.
In terms of other activities, the main thing that most families will do is to look at the moon. One of the major reasons why a lot of families still do this is because it is seen as a very uniting thing, as Chinese people from all over the world look up at the same moon in the sky on the same night, connecting us all together. Which, in my opinion, is a pretty beautiful reason.
Not entirely relating to Mid-Autumn Festival, but a few weeks prior we went to a nearby Oriental food hall for the first time, which is where we bought our mooncake (and before we received all the others). The only other Chinese/Oriental dominated location I’ve been to England is Chinatown in London (as well as Chinese supermarkets but I don’t think they really count), so it was a pretty novel experience for me. It really didn’t feel like England either, as most people there were of Oriental ethnicity, so it gave off a different vibe to Chinatown, where there are plenty of tourists and local Londoners craving some Dim Sum or other Chinese delicacies.
Of course, who would we be if we didn’t take the opportunity to grab some Chinese egg tarts, and I simply had to grab a photo of the cake box because, well, isn’t it simply adorable!
Anyway, what cultural festivals have you celebrated recently, if any? I’d love to know!