Friday, 3 October 2014

The Lantern Festival

by Frederike Rademacher

Mid-Autumn Festival is a celebration and holiday in China. Workers are granted a day off from work to celebrate the festival and its rich history. Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 25th to the 27th September this year, according to our Roman calendar.

Mid-Autumn Festival is the custom of sacrificial moon ceremonies in China. The origin of the festival dates back to when the ancient Chinese came to the realization that the movement of the moon had a close relationship with changes of the seasons and farming production. Thus the Chinese give thanks to the moon in the form of sacrifices and celebrate the harvest.

The sacrificial ceremonies can be dated back to the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BC) and were originally only practiced by those of royal class and blood on the Autumnal Equinox. During this time, there was no festival to celebrate the moon, the festival celebration later in the Sui (581 - 618 AD) and Tang (618 - 907 AD) dynasties. The prosperity of the people inspired the idea to merge both classes in celebration of the moon on moon sacrifice day. The common people were able to express their faith in a more liberal manner and so the celebration does not necessarily fall on the Autumn Equinox anymore. It was decided that the celebration would move in date and would be fixed. This happened in the Tang Dynasty. By the time of the Northern Song Dynasty (960 - 1127 AD), Mid-Autumn Festival had already become a widely celebrated folk festival. 

On the day of the festival, family members and relatives come together to offer a sacrifice to the moon and revel in the brightness it offers. Everyone eats moon cakes and in some regions there are other customs like playing lanterns, and dragon and lion dances. In some areas, the festival is also known as Lantern Festival.

Moon cakes are the delicacy of the festival - a special food only for this time of year. On the day, the people will offer the moon a sacrifice of moon cakes and eat them in celebration. Moon cakes come in various flavors according to the region. The moon cakes are round, symbolizing the reunion of a family, so it is easy to understand how the eating of moon cakes under the round moon can evoke feelings of familial longing.Nowadays it is common place for people to present moon cakes to family and friends to show that they wish them a long and happy life.

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