5 interesting things you should know about the Moon Cake festival

Moon cake festival
5 interesting things you should know about the Moon Cake festival

September 7th marks the annual Moon Cake Festival, also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival. This festival is celebrated by the Chinese Communities all around the world. This festival is the second most important festival to the chinese after Chinese New Year and takes place on the 15th day of the eight month in the Chinese calendar. Here are 5 interesting things that you should know about this colourful festival of mooncakes and lanterns.

1) The Mid-Autumn Festival Is Often in Late Summer!

The Mid-Autumn Festival falls as early as September 8, which is late summer for south China; not even autumn! Its latest date of October 6 is still only early autumn for south China. Only in north China, where there are short summers and long winters, is the festival aptly named climatically, but only for about half of the time.

2) Mid-Autumn isn't always during the full moon.

The moon
Image courtesy of a-li.com.cn

Although it is primarily a celebration of the harvest, there are many interesting tales behind this festival. Contrary to popular belief, the moon is not necessarily the most circular, the brightest, or the biggest during the Mid-Autumn festival. The Chinese calendar doesn't coincide perfectly with the revolution of the moon, so the 15th is not guaranteed to be a full-moon night—but the full moon will occur within two days of the festival. And while moonlight is indeed more vivid in autumn's clearer skies the moon is actually brightest around the Winter Solstice. The Mid-Autumn Festival can falls as early as September 8, which is late summer for south China; not even autumn! Its latest date of October 6 is still only early autumn for south China. Only in north China, where there are short summers and long winters, is the festival aptly named climatically, but only for about half of the time.

3) Mooncake festival was the Second "Valentine's Day" in China.

In ancient times, the Mid-Autumn Festival was another Chinese "Valentine's Day", alongside the Double Seventh Festival (this usually falls in August). Single people used to pay homage to "the old man in the moon" — the god who unites people in marriage — and prayed for his help finding true love and getting married quickly. Couples enjoyed spending some romantic time together. The Mid-Autumn moon has traditionally been a choice occasion to celebrate marriages, and in some parts of China, dances are held for young men and women to find partners.

4) Who is the girl usually pictured under the moon?

Change Er

That’s Chang’e (pronounced as Chung-uh), wife of the warrior-turned-king, Houyi. Hou Yi was given a bottle of elixir that would grant him immortality by the queen of heaven. One of his students, Feng Meng wanted to seize his elixir. One day, Hou Yi went hunting with his students, but Feng Meng pretended to be ill and stayed at home. When making sure Hou Yi had gone he went to Hou Yi's house and tried to force Chang'e to give him the elixir. Chang'e knew she couldn't defeat Feng Meng so she drank the elixir immediately. The elixir made her become an immortal and fly higher and higher. Finally, she stopped on the moon. From then on, people often pray to Chang'e for fortune and safety. During the Mid-Autumn Festival they offer lots of foods to Chang'e.

5) Why are there patterns on the surface of mooncakes?

Moon cake

Traditional mooncakes are embossed with Chinese characters for "togetherness" or "harmony", as well as the insignia of the baker and the fillings inside. Flowers, vines, a moon, or a rabbit can be used for additional decoration. Many types of fillings can be found in traditional mooncakes and often differ based on local culture. Most mooncakes consist of a thin, tender golden brown skin wrapped over a sweet, dense filling of lotus, red bean or red date paste. They have one or more whole salted egg yolks at the centre to symbolise the full moon.

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