Mooncakes and Lanterns: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival

  • 2022
  • Community
Anne Sung & Ada Wang, Mandarin teachers

“Moonlight beams before the bed, Suspected frost on the ground, Raising your head – beholds the bright moon, lowering head – longing for home.” 

This poem, written in the 8th century by Li Bai, depicts the poet’s loneliness during the Mid-Autumn Festival as he was unable to return home to his family and friends. This poem reflects our life today amidst the pandemic - many of us are unable to reunite with our loved ones and celebrate this important Chinese tradition.

Students learning how to make mooncakes

The Mid-Autumn Festival, which is also known as the Mooncake festival, is a traditional Chinese festival. It is the second most important festival in Chinese culture, falling short only to the Chinese New Year. This festival is held on the 15th of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar, where the Moon is believed to be at its fullest and brightest. The Mid-Autumn Festival was once an event held to enjoy successful harvests of rice and wheat with offerings of food in honor of the moon. Nowadays, we celebrate it by reuniting with family and friends, eating mooncakes, and playing with lanterns.

Students showing off the lanterns they created​

The Mid-Autumn Festival has a long-lasting history, and because of this, many myths and stories surround its origin. The most famous one would be the story of Chang E. The story is set in a distant past, where there were ten suns. All the crops were drying out due to the heat and so an archer, named Hou Yi, used his bow and shot down nine of the suns. The Queen of heaven, astounded by the achievement of a mortal, gave him an elixir of life. One who eats the elixir will become immortal and go to heaven. However, Hou Yi was unwilling to leave his wife, Chang E, behind and chose to safekeep the elixir instead. One day, when Hou Yi was out, one of his disciples tried to steal it. He forced Chang E to hand over the elixir. Unable to stop the intruder, she chose to swallow the elixir herself. She ascended through the air and became immortal, but she did not want to be apart from her husband. So, she flew to the moon, a place closest to the earth. Returning home, Hou Yi was heartbroken, as he looked up to the night sky and caught a glimpse of Chang E’s figure. He immediately believed that it was his wife, looking down upon him. He then went and made her favorite food, one of which is the mooncake, and offered it to her. Since then, people began offering mooncakes to the moon and its deity living within.

Middle School students making their Mid-Autumn greeting cards

This festival is where families reunite. It is celebrated in Hong Kong with dragon and lion dances as well as beautiful homemade lanterns. People also gather outside to admire the moon, as it is the brightest and closest of the year, as well as to see the lantern displays.
Students at THS are encouraged to explore the vast history of this festival through multiple activities provided by our language team. THS also has a yearly tradition of donating mooncakes to the elderly and local children’s centers. Despite not being able to celebrate this Mid-autumn Festival with our loved ones, we are glad to be able to teach our students the significance of this tradition in Chinese culture, so that they too may learn to appreciate this wonderful festival with their friends and families.

Students donating mooncakes to an elderly center in Ap Lei Chau

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