Falling on August 15 of the lunar calendar, the Mid-Autumn Festival began in the early years of the Tang dynasty (618-907) and flourished during the Song dynasty (960-1279).
By the time of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) dynasties, it became one of the traditional Chinese festivals, almost as important as Spring Festival. Influenced by Chinese culture, the Mid-Autumn Festival has also become popular in some other Asian countries, especially for local overseas Chinese.
But how do China’s neighbors celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festivel? You'll find answers after reading.
South Korea: Family Reunion, Sponge Cake
The Koreans call Mid-Autumn Festival “Chuseok”, a day to sweep the tombs and sacrifice newly-harvested grains and fruit to ancestors.
Chuseok is also a day for returning home to visit relatives and exchange gifts with friends, one of the most important festivals in Korea. Local people also call this day Korean Thanksgiving.
The most significant tradition at Chuseok is for the whole family to unite at the grandparents’ home, to dance and enjoy the full moon, after worshipping the ancestors. Girls dress up in colorful traditional costumes and play ancient springboard games.
Korea (like China and moon cakes) also has its unique Mid-Autumn Festival food – sponge cake. Made of rice flour, sponge cake is shaped like a half moon and stuffed with sweetened bean paste and jujube paste.
Vietnam: Listening to the Legends of Cuội
In Vietnam by contrast the Mid-Autumn Festival is a carnival for children. On the night of the festival, it is common for Vietnamese children to listen to the legend of Cuội and go out for fun with a carp lantern. This helps them make significant advances in their careers after growing up.
Japan: Dango (Japanese Dumplings)
The Japanese call the Mid-Autumn Festival “Tsukimi” or “Otsukimi”, literally moon-viewing. After moon-watching was introduced from China to Japan more than 1,000 years ago, the locals celebrated with “Moon-Viewing Banquets”, while enjoying the bright full moon.
On the day of the Mid-Autumn Festival, thousands of Japanese wear costumes with ethnic characteristics, singing and carrying a shrine to the temple. Children go out to the wild to collect weeds that symbolize good luck and decorate their homes.
At night, the whole family gathers in the yard, presenting fruit and rice dumplings to celebrate the harvest and to honor the autumn moon, and listening to a myth about the moon told by older members of the family.
It is not moon cakes that Japanese eat at Mid-Autumn Festival, but dango, Japanese dumplings made of polished glutinous rice. They come in different shapes and colors, but the stuffing is mainly bean paste.
Singapore: Mass Celebrations in Gardens
The population of Singapore is mostly Chinese, and Mid-Autumn Festival is of course an important holiday there.
Every year at this festival, each residential community convenes a Mid-Autumn Evening Party organized by merchants, at which you can enjoy a variety of moon cakes and participate in fun garden activities, such as dragon- or lion-dance performances, river lanterns and stilts.
Malaysia: Lantern Parades
Eating moon cakes, appreciating the moon and parading with lanterns have been Mid-Autumn Festival traditions of Malaysian Chinese passed down through the generations.
As the festival approaches, all kinds of moon cakes are promoted throughout Malaysia. Major shopping malls in Kuala Lumpur establish moon cake counters, with loads of advertisements, creating a festive atmosphere for Mid-Autumn, just like in China.
Besides, people in some places parade with lanterns, and convene dragon- and lion-dances, festoon cars with “Lady Chang’e” and “seven fairies”, sing and dance.
Thailand: Moon-Praying Festival
Called the “Moon-Praying Festival”, the Mid-Autumn Festival in Thailand is tremendously influenced by Chinese folk culture – stalls selling moon cakes, joss sticks and candles can be found everywhere in Bangkok. Every year on lunar August 15th, families have a reunion dinner and a grand moon-worship ceremony at night.
At Mid-Autumn, Thai people make archways with sugar cane. They gather in front of an archway, light incense and candles, worship the moon, and pray for each other; similar to the folk worship of Chinese people.
During this ceremony, moon cakes, grapefruit and peaches should be displayed on the Mid-Autumn table as sacrifices to Guanyin Bodhisattva and the Eight Immortals, who according to Thai folklore will bless the world.
At Mid-Autumn, Thai people eat grapefruit, because it is large and round, and symbolizes “reunion”. Thailand is also a country with loads of overseas Chinese, especially in Bangkok, so moon cake is also a typical festival food; and the one with durian stuffing is most popular.
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