On September 10th, you may have looked up to the sky and noticed the moon was full. To some of us that meant nothing more than a full moon once a month, but every year when the moon is full around this time, that means much more to people who celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival. Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month of the Lunar Calendar every year, which falls around the time of the harvest moon. It is celebrated by many Asian countries including China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Singapore, but the ways that it is celebrated are different by country.
In China, the celebration is called Zhongqiu Jie (中秋节) and centers around the legend of Chang’e and her ascent to the moon after swallowing a pill of immortality. It is said that the pill was originally gifted to her husband for shooting down nine of earth’s 10 suns and saving humanity but was given to Chang’e for safekeeping. When one of her husband’s followers tried to steal the pill, she swallowed it to prevent it from getting into the wrong hands, thus granting her immortality. Therefore, she floated up to the moon and has lived there ever since alongside the Jade Rabbit. As a result, Chinese people eat mooncakes filled with salted egg yolk and lotus paste during the Mid-Autumn festival.
In South Korea, the festival is called Chuseok (주석), also called Hangawi (한가위). Both the day before and day after are national holidays, allowing time for many people to go back to their hometowns during the holiday. People eat moon shaped rice cakes and admire the moon while trying to look for the moon rabbit, which is said to make the rice cakes.
Similarly, in Japan the festival is called Tsukimi (月見) and people eat mochi, which is also made by the moon rabbit. Other foods that are commonly eaten as a part of the festival include seasonal produce like pumpkin, chestnuts as well as eggs.
In Vietnam, the celebration is called Tết Trung Thu and has a slightly different origin compared to Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival. The legend says that a man named Mr. Cuoi hung onto a magical banyan tree as he floated up to the moon, and now, if you look up to the moon you can see a shadow of a man sitting under a tree. Similar to other countries, though, it is a time to spend with your family.
If you stopped by Keppel House on Tuesday and spent time with the Asian Student Union for the Mid-Autumn Festival, you would have been able to try some of these mooncakes, mochi, and matcha as well as make origami. President Ali Koehl (‘23) says, “In Chinese culture, the roundness of the mooncake symbolizes wholeness and completeness as well as symbolizing the moon.” The inside of Keppel House was decorated for the event with lanterns hung up around the arches. Koehl reported that the turnout was around 30 people who came to celebrate and have fun with the activities and food. Jairus Meer, one of the Board of Trustees members also gave a presentation about how different people celebrate the festival.
Asian Student Union meets in Keppel House every Tuesday night from 7 to10 pm. ASU will also celebrate Diwali in October. More details and event information to come.