The Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the most important festivities in China, According to Chinese lunar calendar, the 15th day of the 8th month is the exact midst of autumn, so it’s called the Mid-Autumn Festival. The Mid-Autumn Festival is an evening celebration when families gather together to light lanterns, eat moon cakes and appreciate the round moon. On that night, the moon appears to be at its roundest and brightest. The full moon is a symbol for family reunion, which is why that day is also known as the Festival of Reunion.
The Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations date back to more than 2,000 years ago. In feudal times, Chinese emperors prayed to Heaven for a prosperous year. They chose the morning of the 15th day of the second lunar month to worship the sun and the night of the 15th day of the eighth lunar month to hold a ceremony in praise of the moon. In the western district of Beijing is the Yuetan Park, which originally was the Temple of Moon, and every year the emperor would go there to offer a sacrifice to the moon.
This ancient custom became prevalent in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) that people enjoyed and worshipped the full moon. In the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), however, people sent round moon cakes to their relatives as gifts in expression of their best wishes of family reunion. When it turned dark, they gazed up at the full silver moon or went sightseeing by lakes, to celebrate the festival.
Since the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing dynasties (1644-1911), the custom of Mid-Autumn Festival celebration has become unprecedentedly popular. Together with the celebration appeared some special customs in different parts of the country, such as burning incense, planting Mid-Autumn trees, lighting lanterns on towers and fire dragon dances, etc. Whenever the festival sets in, people would look up at the full silver moon, drinking wine to celebrate their happy life, or thinking of their relatives and friends far from home and extending all of their best wishes to them.
In mid-autumn, farmers have just finished gathering their crops and bringing in fruits from the orchards. They are overwhelmed with joy when they have a bumper harvest and at the same time, they feel quite relaxed after a year of hard work. So the 15th day of the eighth lunar month (the Mid-Autumn Festival) has gradually evolved as a widely celebrated festival for ordinary people.
Night falls. The land is bathed in silver moonlight. Families set up tables in their courtyards or sit together on their balconies, chatting and sharing offerings to the moon. Together, they enjoy the enchanting spell of night. Naturally, they are reminded of beautiful legends about the moon.
Beijing Travel Guide