What Is the Moon Festival?

B. Chisholm

The Moon Festival is a Chinese holiday celebrating the moon, also referred to as the August Moon Festival or Mid-Autumn Festival. It is celebrated by the Chinese community on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month each year and is a time when families gather together. Traditionally, it was all women that took part in the rituals of the festival, as the moon is considered to be feminine, but it is now celebrated by everyone in Chinese communities worldwide.

The Moon Festival is traditionally celebrated during the fall.
The Moon Festival is traditionally celebrated during the fall.

Chinese mythology features the moon regularly, and the sun and the moon were objects of veneration. One of the myths features a character called Chang E, who flew to the moon with her pet rabbit made of jade and a woodcutter called Wu Gang. It is thought that on clear nights, when the moon is full, they can still be seen there, dancing.

Traditionally celebrated in September, the August Moon festival has its roots in the veneration of the moon in Chinese culture.
Traditionally celebrated in September, the August Moon festival has its roots in the veneration of the moon in Chinese culture.

In modern times, the Moon Festival is celebrated with families and friends gathering together in a manner similar to the American holiday, Thanksgiving. It is a time of rejoicing, dancing, singing, eating and gazing at the full moon. As with many traditional festivals, the Moon Festival also has a food that is inextricably linked to it, moon cakes.

Moon cakes are a Chinese delicacy which consists of a pastry shell filled with a sweet paste made from red beans and lotus seeds. Depending on the cook, they may contain one or more salted duck egg yolks in the filling. Traditionally, they have an imprint on the pastry topping which will be Chinese symbols showing a message such as "Longevity" or "Harmony." While these sweet treats were always made at home, they are now also produced commercially by bakeries around the time of the Moon Festival.

These cakes are presented by businessmen to their clients, friends to their hosts and families to each other during the festival. There are many regional variants to the recipe and some modern day variations too. The traditional moon cakes were cut into slices and eaten, but modern versions that are small, single servings are also found.

The Moon Festival is not only celebrated each year in China but in communities throughout the world. Each year Chinese communities gather together in August and host singing, music and dancing through the streets. This is accompanied by parades and the hanging of lanterns and can stretch over two or three days.

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Discussion Comments


@serenesurface-- There are different types of moon cakes, some being more sweet than others. But what they all share in common is that they are made with lots of butter so they are very rich. The reason that people buy a few is because one can't eat a lot of this delicacy. Traditionally, a single moon cake is cut into four quarters for a family of four. So every gets a small piece. But believe me, that is enough.

If there are Chinese groceries in you area, you can definitely find moon cakes at the stores. Most people in China these days buy them commercially too because it does take some time to make them. All this talk of moon cakes has made me crave some! I can't wait for the moon festival now.


What intrigues me the most about the Chinese moon festival are the moon cakes. I so wish I could try one. I have seen pictures of moon cakes and they look delicious. I'm surprised to know that families buy only a few for the occasion though. I'd be inclined to buy a lot more.


I realize it's not the same, but this reminds me of the Indian celebration called Karwa Chauth. It's a day when women fast for their husbands and they break their fast when they sight the moon. And their first drink of water and piece of food is given to them by their husbands.

It's a celebration where the married women prides herself in her marital status and fasts to have the same husband in all of her lifetimes.

It's interesting how the moon has come to be associated with various celebrations in different cultures.

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