Mid-Autumn Festival: A celebration of the moon.

Maiden of the moon as depicted in many chinese mythologies.

Maiden of the moon as depicted in many Chinese mid-autumn mythologies.

Mid-Autumn or mooncake/lantern festival as it is known in Malaysia is usually celebrated when the moon is at its fullest and brightest on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month of the Chinese calendar. On Gregorian calendar, it usually falls around mid to late September, a date that parallel the autumn equinox, when the sun is positioned directly above the earth’s equator.

It is mainly a Chinese celebration of bountiful harvest and togetherness that dates back over 3,000 years to China’s Zhou Dynasty. The stories behind the mid autumn festival were plentiful and varied from version to version. One version was told of how HouYi the immortal archer shooting down 9 out of the 10 suns to save the earth from being scorched to the ground. Upon saving the earth he was presented with an elixir of immortality by the emperor which could grant him eternal life.

However the magical elixir was discovered by his wife, Chang’e and upon consuming it, found that she could fly. When HouYi realized what she had done and repriminded her, she flew out the window and into the sky. HouYi sped after her but failed. When Chang’e reached the moon breathless, she coughed out part of the elixir and found herself stranded on the moon. Realizing her mistakes, she commanded the jade rabbit to remake the magical elixir so the she could return to earth to be with her husband.

As of today the jade rabbit is still pounding herbs to produce the magical elixir. Therefore the mid autumn festival will always be associated with Chang’e that was stranded on the moon eternally. Once a year, on the 15th day of the full moon HouYi visits his wife. That is why on that night, the moon is suposedly to be full and beautiful. Well, if you looked carefully, you might see the jade rabbit pounding on the mortar and Chang’e flying over the moon.

Mooncake festival over the years, has become more commercialize with hotels joining the fray in producing a variety of mooncakes with different flavors and colors. Even the packaging has changed from a simplistic paper wrapping to intricate mind boggling wooden or metal casing with presentation value fit for an emperor.

Celebration of mid-autumn festival will usually start with prayers and food offerings (e.g. pomeloes & other fruits) placed on the altar. Mooncakes are usually consume outside the house or courtyard and under the moon lit night, with assortments of brightly lit multicolored accordion paper lanterns adorning the perimeter of the house. Laughter and celebratory atmosphere will fill the household with children running around with their favorite battery-powered Disney character lanterns. That is the spirit of the modern mid-autumn festival.

Mooncakes in treasure chest

A treasure chest of mooncakes from Eastin Hotel (2008 collection)

Mooncakes comes in a variety of flavor.

Latest trend in mooncakes: Aesthetically pleasing with multitude of flavors.

Mooncakes are most enjoyable when taken with a cup of chinese tea.

Mooncakes are most enjoyable when taken with a sip of Chinese tea.

Consumer shopping for mooncakes and lanterns for the upcoming mid autumn festival in Mid Valley Megamall, Kuala Lumpur.

Consumer shopping for mooncakes and lanterns for the upcoming Mid-Autumn festival at Mid Valley Megamall in Kuala Lumpur.

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