Every year the first full moon that occurs closest to the autumnal equinox is recognized as the Harvest Moon, and is widely celebrated across the world as one of the biggest lunar events of the year. The autumnal equinox in general is significant for many cultures around the world. In many Asian countries it’s believed that the full moon is the brightest during the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is celebrated with a variety of customs and traditions.
Traditionally, the Mid-autumn festival is observed in China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines. It’s celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, which usually falls in mid-September or early October. This year, the full moon is projected to occur on October 1st, here’s how some of these countries will be celebrating:
Festival customs vary based on country, like any holiday celebration. All generally focus on family gatherings, special foods, lanterns, and offerings to the moon. In Taiwan, for example, the event is a national holiday and involves eating mooncakes and pomelo. The food traditions on this night are just as important as turkey on Thanksgiving or a ham on Christmas.
In South Korea the celebrations last for three days to give everyone enough time to reconnect with their families and friends; normally people come back to South Korea from all over the world to celebrate the festival. In Vietnam the event is called the “Children’s Festival” and involves kids carrying lanterns while they watch traditional lion dances and enjoy some homemade mooncakes.
Mooncakes are another generally accepted traditional element of the Mid-Autumn festival. People either give them to their loved ones as gifts, make them for family gatherings, or donate to local organizations. The cakes are meant to represent the full moon, and are traditionally filled with either bean paste, egg yolk, truffles, chocolate, or even ice cream.
The legend of the festival involves a hero named Hou Yi, who single handedly shot down nine of the ten suns that were overheating the earth. As a reward, the Goddess of the Heavens gave him a special elixir that would enable him to become a god himself. Hou Yi’s wife, however, was forced to drink the elixir one day after an evil man tried to steal it from them. She then flew up to the moon along with her rabbit, so in a fit of heartbreak Hou Yi placed his wife’s favorite foods on his table every year on the day of the fullest moon, hoping she would return to him.
Now, Netflix is even getting involved in the festivities with the release of “Over the Moon,” a computer animated musical that’s based on the legend behind the festival. The musical will follow a young girl named Fei Fei, who’s coping with the loss of her mother and becomes enthused to learn about the legend of the Moon Goddess.
Lady M is a very prominent mooncake maker and recently announced a collaboration with Netflix and Pearl Studios – the studio producing “Over the Moon” – to celebrate the film and upcoming event. The artist created a limited-edition lantern that actually glows to highlight its opulent gold and emerald accents. If you click a button the Moon goddess and other mythical creatures will appear as well. The lantern also comes with six different moon cake variations to keep with tradition.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.