Mid-Autumn Festival: Past and Present


The Mid-Autumn festival is one of the biggest holidays in China and there has always been a big celebration for it but over the years, the way the holiday is celebrated has changed. Before the Tang Dynasty, it was believed that people would worship Mountain Gods after the harvest season was complete. During this time, families gathered together to eat and talk. It was a time of relaxation. There weren’t any big festivals at the time to celebrate the holiday.

When the Mid-Autumn Festival was first recognized as an actual holiday during the Tang Dynasty, two thousand years ago, people simply gazed at the full moon, appreciated its beauty and worshipped it. It was a time to look back and appreciate a year’s worth of work. Farmers also took this time to relax after a successful harvest. Just like before, it was a time to gather with family but during this time, there were many works of literature written to family members who could not makes it. Later on, during the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279), people started giving moon cakes to their relatives loved ones as a way of showing their appreciation and hopes of reuniting soon. The Song Dynasty was also when the first festival was established in celebration of this holiday. After eating their dinners, families gathered outside with other families and together, went to public areas where the festivals were being held. 

Eating moon cakes during the Mid-Autumn Festival didn’t become a tradition until the Yuan Dynasty. The Mongols ruled during the Yuan Dynasty and the Han people tried to overthrow their rule by organizing an uprising. The Hans started a rumor about a disease that could only be cured by eating moon cake. The uprising occurred during the Mid-Autumn Festival and every year since then, moon cake is eaten to memorialize the uprising. (More details in Origin of Mooncakes It wasn’t until the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) that the Mid-Autumn Festival became widely popular. Festivals were set up and cities became filled with bright lights and laughter during this time of the year. Children ran freely in the streets with colorful lanterns.. 


These days, the Mid-Autumn Festival involves a lot of activities and has more of a festive aura. People do not simply eat dinner with family and appreciate the moon. Families still gather for a large dinner but after dinner, everyone goes out to public parks where performances and events, such as lantern shows, are held. Cities are overrun with bright, colorful lanterns and other attractions for tourists. Performances and events are also funded by the government and broadcasted all over the country. These performances include sketches that bring the folklore behind the holiday to life and also performances by famous singers. The Mid-Autumn Festival is a time when workers can take off and enjoy time with loved ones. 


Throughout all the years one thing remains the same: People would look up to admire the full moon’s beauty while enjoying time with relatives and loves ones and celebrating another happy year. It is a time to celebrate a year’s hard work and reunite with family members that are not seen during the rest of the year. And of course, it is the one time of the year when people can eat moon cake. 

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