Yesterday evening had me at the nearby grocery where the second floor was filled with mooncake boxes for sale. Heaps of individually wrapped mini-mooncakes of all varieties and flavors also took up space in the specialty item selling area. They’d been there for over a week but Friday night brought everyone out in droves, snatching up mooncakes galore in preparation for Mid-autumn Festival on Saturday.
Below, in the 1st floor fruit section, hundreds of youzi, or pomelos (a large citrus fruit the size of a football, comparable to a gigantic grapefruit), were likewise being snatched up for the next day. Mooncakes just wouldn’t taste right without being accompanied by a pomelo for the family gathering the next day.
What is Mid-Autumn Festival?
What exactly is Mid-autumn Festival (sometimes referred to as Moon Festival) and what does it entail? Looking up on the Net, this is what I found:
The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, or in Chinese, Zhongqiu Jie, is a popular harvest festival celebrated by Chinese people, Koreans, and Vietnamese people (even though they celebrate it differently), dating back over 3,000 years to moon worship in China‘s Shang Dynasty. It was first called Zhongqiu Jie (literally "Mid-Autumn Festival") in the Zhou Dynasty. In Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines, it is also sometimes referred to as the Lantern Festival or Mooncake Festival.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, which is usually around late September or early October in the Gregorian calendar. It is a date that parallels the autumn and spring Equinoxes of the solar calendar, when the moon is supposedly at its fullest and roundest. The traditional food of this festival is the mooncake, of which there are many different varieties.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the two most important holidays in the Chinese calendar, the other being the Chinese New Year, and is a legal holiday in several countries. Farmers celebrate the end of the summer harvesting season on this date. Traditionally, on this day, Chinese family members and friends will gather to admire the bright mid-autumn harvest moon, and eat moon cakes and pomelos together.
The Accompanying Folk Legend of Mid-Autumn Festival
There are numerous versions of the folk story that accompanies this festival but I’ve only chosen one. Here it is:
Houyi was an immortal, while Chang’e was a beautiful young girl, working in the Jade Emperor‘s (Emperor of Heaven) Palace as the attendant to the Queen Mother of the West (wife of the Jade Emperor), just before her marriage. One day, Houyi aroused the jealousy of the other immortals, who then slandered him before the Jade Emperor. Houyi and his wife, Chang’e, were subsequently banished from heaven, and forced to live by hunting on earth. He became a famous archer.
Now at this time, there were 10 suns, in the form of Three-legged birds, residing in a mulberry tree in the eastern sea; each day one of the sun birds would have to travel around the world on a carriage, driven by Xihe, the ‘mother’ of the suns. One day, all 10 of the suns circled together, causing the earth to burn. Emperor Yao, the Emperor of China, commanded Houyi to shoot down all but one of the suns. Upon the completion of his task, the Emperor rewarded Houyi with a pill that granted eternal life, and advised him: "Make no haste to swallow this pill; first prepare yourself with prayer and fasting for a year". Houyi took the pill home and hid it under a rafter, while he began healing his spirit. While Houyi was healing his spirit, Houyi was summoned again by the emperor. Chang’e, noticing a white beam of light beckoning from the rafters, discovered the pill, which she swallowed. Immediately, she found that she could fly. At that moment, Houyi returned home, and, realizing what had happened, began to reprimand her. Chang’e flew out the window into the sky.
With a bow in hand, Houyi sped after her, and the pursuit continued halfway across the heavens. Finally, Houyi had to return to the Earth because of the force of the wind. Chang’e reached the moon, and breathless, she coughed. Part of the pill fell out from her mouth. Now, the hare was already on the moon, and Chang’e commanded the animal to make another pill from it, so that she could return to earth to her husband.
As of today, the hare is still pounding herbs, trying to make the pill. As for Houyi, he built himself a palace in the sun as "Yang" (the male principle), with Chang’e as "Yin" (the female principle). Once a year, on the 15th day of the full moon, Houyi visits his wife. That is why, that night, the moon is full and beautiful.
Connie’s Plans for Mid-Autumn Festival
My custom for Mid-Autumn Festival has always been to give mooncake boxes to the administrators and English department staff at the school where I’m teaching. This year, unfortunately, finds me in Chengdu during the holidays when school is not in session. That leaves me trying to find a substitute custom for this year: Giving mooncakes to those I know in Chengdu.
Yesterday evening’s visit to the grocery was a fortuitous venture as I hit the sales: Buy 1 pound of mini-mooncakes, get the second pound free. So along with everyone else, I was filling bags with mooncakes and having them weighed to receive my extra pound free. I was loaded down with 8 pounds of mooncakes by the time I left, 4 bags each of 2 pounds.
Who will be the recipient of my mooncake gifts?
First will be the pool staff at both the indoor pool and outdoor pools at Mengzhui Wan Aquatic Center. As an avid swimmer, I have been a regular every day at both the indoor and outdoor pool this past month. The staff keep both facilities extremely clean and never have a day off. Even for Chinese New Year, the pools are always open. The workers, always pleasant and quick to please, deserve a little something special for their family gathering this evening so 1 bag each will be dropped off at the pools today for sharing with everyone.
Next will be Dr. Q’s clinic, which I’ll be visiting tomorrow to hand over Kitty for his new life as clinic cat. Although a day late, Dr. Q’s staff of 11 can still enjoy snacking on mooncakes during their down times in between caring for the small animals visiting.
The last bag will be for Jalin’s family. This evening, I’ll be spending time with them, eating mooncakes and pomelo while we watch TV programs celebrating the festival.
There will be a few mooncakes held back for Xiao Hua (Little Flower) because this is her 8th birthday. Although the festival day changes every year, it’s around this time Little Flower was born thus I always choose it as her birthday. Little Flower will have her own individual mooncake and candle on top. She will also be breaking her diet from our ongoing Diet Camp. Everyone deserves to be spoiled on their birthday, Little Flower included. She’ll be given a full mini-mooncake to enjoy, whatever flavor she wants, before the day’s end.
Sad to say, we won’t be able to enjoy the full moon tonight along with our goodies. The weather is not cooperating at all with dark, cloudy skies and rain. That’s O.K. Moon-sighting or no moon-sighting, I’m sure Little Flower and I will have a great Mid-Autumn Festival together, Kitty included.
Here’s wishing you Ping An (peace) for your Moon Day and weekend!