Moon cakes and a 3-day weekend. What’s better than that?

This festival is also referred to as the Moon Festival. In Chinese, Zhōngqiūjié (中秋节). What is it exactly? Only the 2nd most important holiday for Chinese people after Spring Festival or Chinese New Year!

If you’re in China, I’m guessing you’re drawn by China’s large and rich culture and history. The Mid-Autumn Festival dates back over 3,000 years and is intricately linked to the legend of Houyi the Archer and Chang’e, the Chinese Moon Goddess of Immortality. Both are Chinese Mythological figures placed at around 2200 B.C.E.

According to the legend, Chang’e and her husband Houyi were immortals living in heaven. One day, The Jade Emperor’s ten sons transformed into ten suns. The Jade Emperor commanded Houyi the Archer to destroy all the ten suns. However, Houyi left one son to be the sun in order to save earth. The displeased Jade Emperor banished Houyi and Chang’e to earth to live as mortals. In order to relieve his wife’s longing for her immortality, Moon cakesHouyi went off to find the pill of immortality so that they could both become immortal again. After a long and arduous journey he found The Queen Mother of the West who presented him with one single pill warning him that he and his wife should take only one half of the pill each. Houyi upon his return home with the pill, fell fast asleep due to his exhaustive quest. Unfortunately, Chang’e let curiosity get the best of her swallowing the entire pill, causing her to float into the air. As she floated up into the sky, Houyi awoke and instead of shooting her down with his arrow, which he could not bring himself to do, let her float away to the moon where she still lives to this day.

There are many different versions of the story to date and some make Chang’e out to be selfish and Houyi to be an angry vengeful figure, but the romantic in me thinks the version above is more beautiful and sad and fitting for the embodiment of the Moon Festival, a time to cherish your relationships with people, over moon cakes of course!

The traditional food that emerged from this celebration came dynasties later, the traditional food on this holiday being moon cakes, in Chinese: yuèbǐng (月饼). But if you’re not loving the traditional small round biscuit-like moon cakes which may contain one or more whole salted egg yolks in its center to symbolize the full moon, you can always try Haagen Dazs’ adapted version of the traditional biscuit, plus it’s ice cream-filled but keeping with tradition, decorated in the same style. Traditional moon cakes also have an imprint on top consisting of the Chinese characters for “longevity” or “harmony” surrounded by images of the moon, the figure of the Moon Goddess Chang’e, flowers, vines, or a rabbit (symbol of the moon).

Following in the steps of the Chinese and Chinese tradition, lets all put time aside to appreciate the “bright” moon as the Chinese did 3,000+ years ago and as is celebrated every year on this month. This is a great time to come together with friends and family, offer loved ones and cherished friends moon cakes, make sure to eat them in wedges paired with a tea! It’s yummy and the traditional way to eat them!

Celebrate with your Hutong family, and the great people you’ve met here in China.

Want to learn about one of China’s other festivals? Check out our articles on Traditional Foods of Chinese New Year or on the National Day of the People’s Republic of China.

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