The Origin of the Mooncake & Mid-Autumn Festival
Written by: Fête Chinoise Team
Photography: Karl Ng
The Mid-Autumn Festival is held on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, when the moon is full and bright. The date usually corresponds to a day in September or October of the Gregorian calendar. Paper lanterns line the streets and shopping districts around the world in cities with Asian populations, in celebration of the festival. This is considered one of the most visual and vibrant occasions, on par with the festivities of Lunar New Year. Mooncakes are a worldwide staple to mark the occasion and bakers have gotten creative with flavours from double egg yolk, lotus paste to more innovative fruity flavours.
There are a few origin stories for Mid-Autumn Festival. One myth is about a lovely couple, Chang-E and her husband Hou Yi. Hou Yi was famous for shooting down nine of the ten suns which were heating up the planet, and therefore celebrated for being a hero to humanity. Eventually he gained power and it is believed he obtained the elixir of eternal life. While he was away from his home, an evil doer in the kingdom tried to steal his elixir.
His wife Chang E consumed the substance to avoid having it fall into the hands of a thief, and thereby, became an immortal and flew to the moon — she became known as the Moon Goddess. The story goes that Hou Yi and Chang-E were thus forever separated even though they were in love. He would look up at the moon with a fond heart. Because he missed his beloved wife, he would put out her favourite foods to remember her, and others followed to offered up blessings.
Chinese people used to offer sacrifices to the moon, but now it has evolved into gifting mooncakes instead. Mooncakes are popular and made in many different modern flavours today. Make sure you take note of the history and evolution of mooncakes this Mid-Autumn Festival!
Tune into our Mid-Autumn Mooncake Review in two weeks!