Today celebrates the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese lunar calendar, Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as Moon Festival. This day brings family members and loved ones together to enjoy the full moon and what it symbolises – prosperity, happiness and family reunion.
The Mid-Autumn Festival has a history of over 3000 years with moon worship a significant part of the celebration. According to ancient Chinese mythology, there was once a hero named Hou Yi who saved the Earth by shooting down 9 of the 10 suns that appeared in the sky. An admirer of Yi bestowed him with an elixir of immortality, however Yi refused to become immortal without his wife Chang’e. An accomplice knew of this secret and attempted to trick Yi into drinking it, instead Chang’e swallowed the elixir and flew into the sky. After Yi discovered what had happened he felt so sad he displayed the favourite fruits and cake of Chang’e in the garden and gave sacrifices to his wife.
In modern celebration of this festival, families and friends share food offerings in honour of the moon and Chang’e (now known as the Moon Goddess of Immortality). Other traditional customs include burning of incense, performing dragon dances, and releasing brightly lit lanterns.
The hallmark of traditions is the making and sharing of moon cakes, which are typically cakes filled with lotus seed or red bean paste. The senior person in the household would cut the mooncake into pieces and distribute them among family members, signifying completeness and unity of families.