“May we live long and share the beauty of the moon together, even if we are hundreds of miles apart,” says the romantic Chinese poem. These ancient sentiments are still embodied in the way Chinese people celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival: together and preferably under the glow of a full moon.
Mid-Autumn Festival (also known as the Moon Festival, Mooncake Festival, Lantern Festival, and Reunion Festival) is traditionally celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month, which falls in September or October. Mid-Autumn Festival 2013 will be on September 19 and most Chinese people will have a three-day holiday from September 19 to 21.
Like other holidays, Mid-Autumn Festival has its own special food. People celebrate by eating moon cakes. Moon cakes were traditionally filled with lotus seed and the surface were printed with different artistic patterns depicting the story of Chang-E flying to the moon. Moon cakes come in various flavors which change according to the region, but common fillings are nuts, sugar, sesame, ham and an egg yolk representing the moon.
As the moon cake is round in shape, it symbolizes the reunion of a family, so it is easy to understand how the eating of moon cakes under the round moon can inspire thoughts of distant relatives. Nowadays, people present the moon cakes to relatives and friends to demonstrate that they wish them a long and happy life.
Another fun part of the Mid-Autumn Festival is solving riddles. Beautiful paper lanterns are hung throughout China with riddles attached. These riddles can be so tough to solve that they say solving a riddle is like fighting a tiger. Instead of calling them lantern riddles they are known as lantern tigers. Here are a few riddles that have been translated to English. Share these with your family and see who can “fight the tiger.” (The answer to each riddle is posted at the bottom of the article.)
- What’s full of holes but still holds water?
- What do you call a rich fish?
- What building has the most stories?
- Which is faster, hot or cold?
Last year, we had a chance to try moon cakes ourselves and learn a beautiful song (see my earlier post, Celebrating Mid-Autumn Festival). This year, we will be learning a poem by Li Bai (李白) [701- 762], a popular Chinese poet, with a distinctively Romantic style.
Happy Mid-Autumn Festival! Zhōng qiū jié kuài lè 中秋节快乐！Riddle Answers: 1. A Sponge 2. A Goldfish 3. A Library and 4. Hot is faster; you can catch a cold.