Welcome to the 2014-2015 School Year! To start off in the blogsphere I your Writing Whisperer am bringing back one of the very first articles that I wrote here at the school about the Mid-Autumn Festival, enjoy!
This Monday September 8th, is the full moon and the brightest moon you will see in the whole year. Many call it the “Harvest Moon” as it appears in autumn, the season for the harvest. Going back a bit, people used to call “fall” or “autumn” simply the “Harvest” as it’s the time of year when all of the grains and crops in the fields are taken in. People around this time of year have for centuries honored the abundance of the season with special offerings and prayers to nature. Many still do it even today. So let’s hop in the autumn hay wagon and head on over to see a real harvest event in action – the Mid-Autumn/Moon Festival. You may even know about this festival if your family celebrates it.
In several countries across Asia, including Korea, Vietnam and predominantly China (the latter a place your Whisperer has traveled to!) people celebrate a unique harvest festival known in Chinese as (Zhong Qiu Jie), the Mid-Autumn Festival. Its so much a part of Chinese culture that it’s a national holiday! Similar to our American Thanksgiving, families get together and enjoy a specially prepared meal in their home or go out to eat with others close to them. Most people bring a treat which has come to be a symbol for the day – the mooncake. These little auburn pastries are circular in shape to represent the full moon that the festival falls upon and is the reason why people also call today the Moon Festival or Mooncake Festival. Inside you will find egg yolks, nuts or pastes made of ground-up lotus plants or red beans. People also light lanterns and watch performances of traditional lion and dragon dances.
This harvest get-together has lost much of its historic agricultural roots but the moon remains an important part of the occasion. An old Chinese legend relates how Chang ’E, the young wife of an immortal, saves her husband’s life by taking an elixir of immortality. She is then magically transported to the moon where she remains to this day as its resident deity. Unlike Artemis, Diana or other moon deities, she actually “lives” on the moon instead of symbolically personifying it. She is not alone and is joined by a benevolent rabbit who if you look closely appears to be pounding a meal from a large pot (his head is the right eye of the man in the moon!).
The rabbit in the moon’s story comes from India where on earth he was one of the kindest and wisest of creatures. One of the head gods decided to test this rabbit and so disguised himself as a traveling peddler. When he approached the rabbit’s friends they all offered gifts to feed the peddler. As the rabbit had nothing to give he instead offered himself up as a sacrifice and almost burns himself on a funeral pyre. The god then realized the pure and benevolent spirit of this little rabbit and saved him from death and revealed his true heavenly form. To teach the world an example, he raised the rabbit to the moon to forever be its guardian spirit!
So as the summer heat dies down and autumn coolness comes back, look out at the shining full moon and say a little hello to the rabbit and his goddess friend in honor of the harvest. If you can try some moon cakes in our local market that sells Asian specialties such as 99 Ranch Market.
Happy Mid-Autumn Festival Everyone!