On Sunday, October 7, we’re hosting a Mid-Autumn Moon Festival as part of our Free Chinese Culture Sundays presented by MetLife Foundation. We’ll celebrate this traditional harvest festival with performances, activities, and of course, mooncakes!
This is one of the most important holidays on the Chinese lunar calendar, along with the New Year and others. This day has its roots in the old legend of Houyi and Chang’e. There are many versions of the story– one common version begins with the couple as immortals living in heaven. Houyi is an expert archer, and when the ten sons of the Jade Emperor transform into ten suns, scorching Earth, Houyi shoots down all but one. The Jade Emperor is furious and banishes them to Earth as mortals, and Houyi goes on a quest to regain immortality. He finds it in the form of a pill which he brings home and hides. Chang’e discovers the pill and swallows it, and flies to the moon (in certain versions, she’s fleeing her angry husband. In others, he tries and fails to save her from floating away). Houyi is devastated and builds himself a palace on the sun, and once a year can visit Chang’e on the moon– a day celebrated as the Moon Festival.
During the Moon Festival, traditions include visits to a temple, burning incense for Chang’e and other deities, fire dragon dances, and traditional dishes including mooncakes. Today in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, this is a family holiday when people will often gather for a barbecue in an open space with a good view of the moon. This year, the official date is September 30– get family and friends together and host your own gathering, and come to Pacific Asia Museum the following weekend for more celebration on October 7! ~CM