All About the Chinese Moon Festival

Lantern Festival at Yuanmingyuan: The Old Summer Palace
Getty Images/Christian Kober

If you're planning to attend a Chinese Moon Festival or simply want to know more about a festival you've previously attended, this review will better acquaint you with the origins of the festival, the traditional foods associated with it and the different ways it's celebrated. This festival is one of many observed in China, which is home to a number of traditional celebrations. 

Also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival, the Chinese Moon Festival falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month. It's one of the most important traditional events for the Chinese. 

The Legend Behind the Fest

The Moon Festival is rooted in many different myths. Legend traces the story to a hero named Hou Yi, who lived during a time when there were 10 suns in the sky. This caused people to die, so Hou Yi shot down nine of the suns and was given an elixir by the Queen of Heaven to make him immortal. But Hou Yi didn't drink the elixir because he wanted to remain with his wife, Chang'e (pronounced Chung-err). So, he told her to watch over the potion.

One day a student of Hou Yi tried to steal the elixir from her, and Chang'e drank it to foil his plans. Afterward, ​she flew to the moon, and people have prayed to her for fortune ever since. She's presented with a variety of food offerings during the Moon Fest, and festival-goers swear that they can spot Chang'e dancing on the moon during the festival. 

What Happens During the Celebration

The Moon Festival is also an occasion for family reunions. When the full moon rises, families get together to watch the full moon, eat moon cakes and sing moon poems. Together, the full moon, the legend, the family gatherings and the poems recited during the event make the festival a great cultural observance. That is why the Chinese are so fond of the Moon Festival.

Although the Moon Festival is a place where families congregate, it is also considered a romantic occasion. The festival legend, after all, is about a couple, Hou Yi and Chang'e, who are madly in love and devoted to one another. Traditionally, lovers spent romantic nights at the event tasting delicious moon cake and drinking wine while watching the full moon.

The moon cake, however, isn't just for couples. It is the ​traditional food consumed during the Moon Festival. The Chinese eat the moon cake at night with the full moon in the sky. 

When circumstances prevent couples from getting together during the event, they pass the night by watching the moon at the same time so it seems as if they are together for the night. A great number of poems has been devoted to this romantic festival. 

As the Chinese have spread out across the globe, one needn't be in China to partake in the Moon Festival. Celebrations are held in countries that are home to large Chinese populations.

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Custer, Charles. "All About the Chinese Moon Festival." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Custer, Charles. (2023, April 5). All About the Chinese Moon Festival. Retrieved from Custer, Charles. "All About the Chinese Moon Festival." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 8, 2023).