China's Harvest Moon FestivalThe month of November means many things. If you’re an author, it means the start of the writing event known as NaNoWriMo. We also see time to highlight men’s health with Movember. In America, perhaps the most common association with November is the holiday, Thanksgiving. Considered an American holiday, many people don’t realize that a multitude of other countries have similar festivals One such celebration takes place in China, during the middle of autumn. The festival is called the Harvest Moon Festival, or Zhōngqiū Jié (中秋节) in Mandarin. The festival often falls near the end of the Gregorian month of October.
The festival centers around the religious beliefs of ancient people. One myth, however, is closely held to the festival itself.
The story follows Hou Yi, an extraordinary archer that saved the world by shooting down nine out of ten rising suns that were wreaking havoc on the people. He was awarded an elixir of immortality by the gods but doing so meant that he would outlive his beloved wife, Chang’e. Unable to bear this thought, he allowed her to keep the elixir for him. A jealous apprentice, however, found out about the elixir and tried to force Chang’e to give it to him when Hou Yi was not home. Instead, Chang’e drank the elixir and flew into the sky, choosing to live in the moon to be closer to her husband. Hou Yi was heartbroken at the loss of his wife and began to leave her favorite sweets and fruits out so that she could see he still loved her dearly. Many people heard this story and began doing the same at the harvest moon each year when it’s believed that Chang’e can see the earth most clearly.
The Harvest Moon Festival centers around three themes. The first is a gathering of family and friends. One of the most popular gatherings, of course, is to help with the harvest of the farm. However, many people that do not live on or near a farm will gather in the home of a loved one to enjoy the company of each other. The second theme is thankfulness. This can be for several reasons, but often, the prevalent focus is the happiness of family and friends, and of the harvest moon, itself. The third and final theme, like many of the Chinese traditional holidays, is prayers, often hoping for a prosperous future or new additions to families.
Like many festivals in China, lanterns have become a popular part of the celebrations. Lanterns are displayed on the ground or released into the sky. Some lanterns have riddles that viewers try to guess. There is also a bean-filled pastry called “moon cakes” that are baked and eaten each year. The festival is also known as a time of matchmaking and romantic wishes. New marriages are celebrated during this time, and, in some parts of China, events are held to introduce individuals looking for a partner to marry.
China is just one country with its own autumn holiday of giving thanks, but the origins of the holiday are among the oldest. If you are planning on visiting China for the Harvest Moon Festival or anytime, visit APVI.com to get started on obtaining your required visa today!