Mid-Autumn Festival: Legends & Traditions

This is one of the most important holidays in China. It occurs on the 15th day of the 8th month according to the Chinese Lunar Calendar...

Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the most important holidays for Chinese people. It occurs on the 15th day of the 8th month according to the Chinese Lunar Calendar (late September – early October). Often called the Moon Festival, it is associated with the bright full moon and hopes for fruitful harvest.

Mooncake Chinese Mid-autumn festival dessert, traditional Chinese dessert

The Legend

There are a few legends related to this festival but the most popular one is a love story… The story of Chang E Flying to the Moon… it goes like this:

In ancient times, there were ten suns in the sky making life on earth unbearable, as the heat was too high. The hero Hou Yi appeared and through his great power and archery skills, he shot down nine of the ten suns. The queen of heaven, Wangmu, admired Hou Yi and his bravery so she gave him the gift of immortality – a magic elixir which if taken will make Hou Yi a god and allow him to ascend to heaven. Hou Yi did not want to leave his lovely wife Chang E so he refused to drink the elixir. Instead, he gave it to Chang E to keep hidden.

Word spread about Hou Yi’s heroism in shooting down the nine suns. People from all over came to see him and learn from him. Among these people was Peng Meng who found out about the generous gift of Wangmu and that Cheng E has hidden the elixir. One day, when Hou Yi was away, Peng Meng went to his house and tried to force Cheng E to give him the elixir of immortality. Cheng E refused to do so and when she saw no other way to escape, she drank the elixir. Once she did that, she ascended into heaven and picked to settle on the Moon as it was closest to the Earth where her beloved husband Hou Yi was.

Once Hou Yi found out about that, he presented her favorite cakes and fruits as a sacrifice to the moon and his lovely wife who was now there. People loved and admired the couple so they started giving sacrifices of cakes and fruit for Cheng E as well.

The Traditions

Eat Mooncakes

Mooncakes are traditional Chinese pastry eaten on Mid-Autumn Festival. It represents the worship of the bright Moon. The perfect circle of the moon at that time of the year represents completes and reunification of the family. Mooncakes have different fillings, most often of nuts and fruits. It is customary to give them as gifts to family, friends and coworkers for the festival.

Family Gathering

Families get together for a reunion dinner, usually at the grandparents’ home. After dinner, they offer sacrifices to the Moon for good luck.


Making colorful lanterns is a favorite activity especially for kids. The lanterns can represent animals, plants or just colorful expressions. Flying lanterns is a beautiful activity and solving lantern riddles or writing wishes within them is a wonderful tradition.

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Cultural Immersion Program: China

Find out more about Chinese Culture and Traditions:

Cooking Lessons

Chinese Art Lessons (painting, calligraphy and more)

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