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Moon Festival/Mid-Autumn Festival

Don't forget to check out the recipe for mooncakes!

The Moon Festival, the Mid-Autumn Festival, the Harvest Festival--these are different names for the same celebration that takes place in China, Korea, Vietnam, and other countries. Originally arising out of the rice-growing cycle, this autumn festival was once a day of thanksgiving for the rice harvest. Following the lunar calendar, it takes place on the fifteenth day of the eighth month when the moon is at its fullest and brightest. In 2013, Mid-Autumn falls on September 19. On the evening of the Moon Festival, family and friends gather in parks, gardens and homes to enjoy the moonlight. Often, people climb hills and mountains to get the best view of the Harvest Moon.

An important part of the Moon Festival is the food. The moon's roundness is a symbol of family unity and harmony, so many round foods are served. The most famous festival food is mooncake, made with sweet fillings. While mooncakes previously came in all shapes and sizes, today they are usually round, with Chinese symbols in the middle.

During Zhongqiu Jie, Mid-Autumn Festival in China, people buy or make colorful paper lanterns in a variety of shapes including animals and flowers. When it is dark, candles placed inside the lanterns glow like little moons. Hounen-Odori is the Japanese harvest festival.

Hounen literally means year of wealth and richness and Odori means dance. Japanese families watch the full moon from the backyard or by the window. It is thought to purify the evils of the world. The day of the Harvest Moon is a time to celebrate the divine moon by eating rice dumplings, called "tsukimi dango".

In Korea, Chu-sok, the Mid-Autumn festival, is a time to eat rice cakes called "songpyon". Songpyon is made with rice and bean paste or other sweet fillings. Children love to dance the "Kang Kang Su Wol Lae" at this celebration. This is also a time to visit family ancestors' tombs and make food offerings.

In Vietnam, eating lots of sweets, making lanterns and dancing, are the ways to celebrate the Moon Festival, Tet Trung Thu. Children love to dance the Dragon and Unicorn Dances in the streets.

The Moon Festival is a celebration of harvest, abundance and family unity. It is one of the most widespread and popular holidays after the New Year. So get ready to eat mooncakes, rice cakes, dance and make paper lanterns: Let's celebrate!

You may also find some of these resources helpful in learning more:

Chinese Festival Song CD
The Moon Lady
Mid-Autumn ($4.95)
Thanking the Moon
Thanksgiving at Obaachan's (Japanese American)
Mid-Autumn Festival-Vietnam
Mooncakes and Hungry Ghosts

Moonbeams, Dumplings and Dragon Boats: A Treasury of Chinese Holiday Tales, Activities & Recipes

Click here to see the recipe for delicious mooncakes!


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