When the Mid-Autumn Festival Started

Written by Sally Guo Updated Apr. 3, 2021

The Mid-Autumn Festival has a long history of over 3,000 years. It originated from the custom of worshipping the moon during the Zhou Dynasty (1046 - 256 BC).

The custom of the Moon Festival was mainly shaped and became popular over 1000 years ago.

Originated from the worship of the moon 3000 Years ago

The Mid-Autumn Festival originated from the worship of the moon.  Ancient Chinese emperors offered sacrifices to the moon on the Autumn Equinox of the 24 solar terms based on the Chinese lunar calendar to pray for a good harvest in the coming year. 

Later, nobles and officials followed it, and it gradually spread to ordinary people.

In ancient times, people believed that the movement of the moon was closely related to agricultural production and seasonal changes. Therefore, They held ritual ceremonies to the moon in the hope that they would be blessed for a successful year. 

 Became Popular over 1000 Years ago

The Tang Dynasty (618-907) is an important period for the Mid-Autumn Festival. The custom of it was mainly shaped in the Tang Dynasty.

The custom of admiring the moon at the Mid Autumn Festival was very popular at that time. Many poets wrote poems about it. People also combined the Moon festival with some legends like "Change over the Moon", making this festival full of romance.

tang people celebrate mid-autumn festival
Tang people travel to modern times to celebrate the Mid-autumn Festival

It became a festival during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) dynasty. the 15th day of the 8th lunar month was established as the Mid-Autumn Festival. It became a popular festival.

The term "moon cake" first appeared in the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279).

During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), Mid Autumn Festival has become one of the main festivals in China, second only to the Chinese New Year.

There were more activities to celebrate this festival, such as playing clay rabbit and the married daughter going home to see her parents.

Origin of the Custome of Eating Moon Cake

It is said that the custom of eating moon cakes at the Mid-Autumn Festival began in the Tang Dynasty. In the Northern Song Dynasty, it was popular in the palace and later spread to the people. It became a common food custom for all people during the Ming Dynasty.

Since the Ming Dynasty, moon cakes were only eaten at the Mid-Autumn Festival, which was the main offering of moon sacrifice popular among the people.

Moon Festival Became a Public Holiday in 2008.

Since 2008, Chinese in mainland of China have had a 1-day break on the Mid-Autumn day. Combined with a weekend, people will have a 3-day holiday.

During the short break, people could enjoy a trip with families or friends, go back home, or watch the Mid-Autumn Festival Gala on TV.

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