The Mid-Autumn Festival is by far our most favourite of all Chinese festivals.
Next to the Spring Festival or “Chun jie”, which marks the celebration of Chinese New Year, the Mid-Autumn Festival or “Zhongqiu jie” is the second most significant holiday of the Chinese lunar calendar. Also known as the Moon Festival, the Mid-Autumn Festival claims a history dating back thousands of years, becoming a popular celebration for the lunar harvest in the early Tang Dynasty period.
Romantic stories attached to this festival abound in Chinese mythology because of course, isn’t La Luna a symbol of romance in cultures all over the world?
Here’s our favourite story: A celestial husband and his wife were banished from the emperor’s court due to jealousy over the wife’s beauty. Anxious to return to court, the husband obeys when the emperor sends him on a mission; mission completed, the emperor rewards the husband with a pill for eternal life and boundless energy. The wife finds the pill by accident and consumes it; when the husband returns, she flees, afraid for her husband’s anger, and reaches the moon, where she coughs out the remainder of the pill. Unable to reach her, the husband asks for another pill to be made while he makes a home for himself in the sun. Unfortunately, the new pill is of extremely limited quantity, such that the husband from the sun can only visit his wife on the moon once a year. Which is why, legends say – the moon is at its roundest and brightest during Mid-Autumn Festival, reflecting the happiness of a reunited couple.
Romantic fairy tales aside, my own reasons for liking this festival best are simply personal and subjective…
In the days leading to the festival, we are entranced by the sight of little kids clutching little lanterns in their little hands,out for moon-gazing walks with their parents.
Athough they pack on calories with a punch, we do enjoy eating mooncakes! Mooncakes are the round-shaped sweet pastries which make popular gifts during this festival. These days, not only bakeshops, restaurants and hotels make a bundle on selling mooncakes but also Starbucks, Haagen Daazs – and even Angry Birds! – are getting into the mooncakes act too.
We are captivated by the colourful festive lanterns festooned all over the city. The ones in the residential compound where we live here in Guangzhou are especially beautiful, and even more magical at night.
And lastly, unlike the Spring Festival, which occurs when winter is at its most severe and spring seems to be an illusory dream, the Mid-Autumn Festival happens when weather in China is at its finest. You can be in Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou and during Mid-Autumn, the weather always seems to be on the cusp between summer’s end and winter’s beginnings. The sun shining gloriously through the day and the full bright moon gleaming at night, just a hint of chill in the air, making it a sheer joy to be outdoors. Perfect weather indeed for moon-gazing!
This year, the Mid-Autumn Festival falls right on the eve of the Chinese National Day holidays, making it an extraordinarily special celebration for the Chinese…as well as for the rest of us, as we all anticipate a week-long holiday. Woot woot, y’all!
We could feel almost palpable excitement in the air, in supermarkets as people rushed to buy gifts for loved ones, in the train station as throngs prepared to journey home to visit families, and even in our compound as kids dashed home on the last day of school before a week’s break, their faces colourfully painted and bringing makeshift paper lanterns home after school celebrations.
So, The Bamboo Stiletto is off as well, on a short break with Herr Hubby, my dear Stiletto-istas. We’ll be in touch again in a couple of days with a holiday dispatch!
Until then, my fondest wishes for “Zhongqiu jie kuai le!!!”...a Happy & Fabulous Mid-Autumn Festival to you and your loved ones!!!