As the summer heat gradually fades and autumn begins to brush the leaves with red and gold, Asia prepares for one of its most cherished celebrations: the Mid-Autumn Festival. This enchanting festival, also known as the Moon Festival, is a time when families come together, lanterns light up the night sky, and eager tastebuds anticipate the sweet flavour of mooncakes!
Origins and Legends
The Mid-Autumn Festival’s long roots go back over a thousand years to ancient China. The celebration goes hand in hand with the harvest season, occurring on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar when the moon is at its fullest and brightest. At its heart, the Mid-Autumn Festival is all about unity, gratitude, and family bonds.
One of the oldest and best-known legends associated with the Mid-Autumn Festival is the tale of Chang’e, the Moon Goddess. According to Chinese folklore, a long time ago, ten suns rose in the sky causing great trouble. Legendary archer Hou Yi, who was the husband of Chang’e, shot down nine and was granted two elixirs of immortality. He wanted to drink one together with his wife, but while he was out hunting, a thief tried to take both potions. To prevent this, Chang’e ended up drinking both and then flew up to the moon where she could be closer to her husband. On the night of the festival, it is believed that Chang’e’s presence is strongest, and people gaze at the moon with reverence, making offerings of fruits, sweets, and burning incense.
Lanterns and Illumination
Although the origin of their association with the festival is lost to time, the Mid-Autumn Festival is renowned for its luminous displays of lanterns that light up cities, towns, and villages across Asia. Lanterns come in various shapes and sizes, from traditional round ones to elaborate sculptures depicting animals, mythological creatures, and even modern symbols. Many people even make floating sky lanterns that light up the night in dazzling displays. Maybe some even reach the moon!
Children are often given lanterns to carry as they participate in lantern parades, adding a touch of enchantment to the evening. In some places, riddles are written on them and friends and family are invited to guess their meaning. The glow of lanterns symbolizes hope, prosperity, and a beacon to guide loved ones home, creating a sense of unity among people, regardless of their age.
Mooncakes and Culinary Traditions
Central to the Mid-Autumn Festival’s celebrations are mooncakes, a type of pastry with rich, dense fillings encased in a thin crust. These treats are often round or square, symbolizing the full moon and the unity of families. Many mooncakes are intricately designed, with imprints on their surface depicting traditional symbols, and they come in an array of flavours, from lotus seed paste to red bean paste, and even more contemporary variations like green tea and chocolate.
The act of sharing mooncakes holds deep cultural significance. Families and friends exchange these delicacies as a token of love and unity, often accompanied by warm cups of tea. It is also customary to gift mooncakes to business associates and elders as a gesture of respect and goodwill.
While the Mid-Autumn Festival has its roots in China, it has been embraced by many other Asian countries, each adding its unique cultural flair to the celebrations.
In Vietnam, the festival is known as “Tet Trung Thu” and is a time for children to showcase their talents in lantern-making, singing, and dancing. Lion and dragon dances, often performed during the festivities, add an element of excitement and spectacle.
In South Korea, the festival is called “Chuseok“. At this time, Koreans celebrate not only the harvest but often travel to their hometowns in order to honour their ancestors by visiting their graves. Koreans also prepare traditional foods such as songpyeon which they enjoy eating with their families.
Japan, too, has a festival inspired by the Mid-Autumn Festival. Known locally as “Tsukimi”, this celebration dates back to the Heian period when nobles would gather to host moon-viewing parties, recite poetry and eat delicious Tsukimi dango.
As a consequence of this beloved festival’s focus on unity, the giving of gifts is a very popular part of the festivities. Many people will pay short visits to their friends and family, bringing with them such treats as fresh fruits and of course the mooncakes with which the Mid-Autumn Festival is almost synonymous!
Companies, too, will often compete with each other to give their employees the best Mid-Autumn gifts. In the days following the festival, social media is awash with content shared between families and coworkers showing off the generous gifts they received. Needless to say, you will find many festive curations on the SnackMagic menus across Asia.
So, as the Mid-Autumn Festival approaches, and Asia transforms into a tapestry of lantern-lit streets and the aroma of freshly baked mooncakes, why not create your own stadium shop and share a special gift with someone you know there? It is a testament to the enduring power of tradition and the human desire to connect with each other and the world around us. As lanterns illuminate the night and the moon casts its gentle glow, the Mid-Autumn Festival stands as a timeless celebration of unity, gratitude, and the beauty of shared moments.