In the past, I usually posted about specific holidays, but because I have friends from Japan, Korea and China, I realized that it was the same basic festival celebrated in different ways. I’m sure Vietnam has it too (due to influence from China), but I don’t know anything about it. Comments and information appreciated.
This year, Autumn Moon Festival is celebrated September 19th in 2013, but
The Autumn Moon Festival originates with Chinese culture, and celebrates the harvest of rice during Autumn. Nowadays, it’s called 中秋節 in Taiwan and 中秋节 in the People’s Republic of China. For both countries, it’s pronounced zhōngqiū jié according to Wikipedia which just means “Mid-Autumn Festival” because it’s celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Lunar Calendar.
Like Chinese New Year, it’s highly festive, with family gatherings, lanterns, etc. One of the most famous things about the Festival though are Moon Cakes (月餅/月饼, yuè bĭng). Our friend brought these mooncakes when we celebrated a baby-shower for him and his wife (Congratulations B and H!). Interestingly, their baby will be work 6 days after ours.
Anyhow, here are the mooncakes that “B” brought:
The mooncakes had different fillings: lotus-root, red-bean (あずき), green tea and jujube fruit. They were all very tasty.
In any case, Mid-Autumn Festival is considered one of the 4 most important holidays in Chinese culture and has deep roots in Chinese communities throughout the world.
Korea celebrates Autumn Moon Festival as Chuseok (추석, 秋夕) which is known as “Korean Thanksgiving”, similar to American Thanksgiving. Like the Chinese Festival, it includes a lot of family gatherings, good food and such. I’m not aware if moon cakes are eaten during Chuseok. Instead, Koreans eat different foods to celebrate Chuseok. I’ve written about it here and here.
One thing I didn’t really mention about Chuseok before is that there’s also an important ceremony done to pay respects to the ancestors. This happens in Chinese culture as well, so they’re related traditions. In the Korean tradition, this is called jesa (제사, 祭祀).
The particular type of rite for Chuseok is called charye (차례, 茶禮) which is an elaborate offering of tea and foods to the ancestors. Interstingly, one our friends is Japanese, but ethnically Korean (在日) and she says that even though they don’t really follow Korean traditions anymore, they still do jesa at certain holidays.
…and of course, if you’re a K-Pop fan, you get to see your favorite stars dressed up in Hanbok to give a Happy Chuseok message to fans.
Japan celebrates a somewhat different holiday around this time called otsukimi (お月見). It’s somewhat smaller than the Autumn Moon Festival, and people do not pay respects to the ancestors because this is already done during Obon the previous month.
Instead, Otsukimi is a more low-key tradition to gather as a family and watch the full moon, eat mochi rice-cakes and maybe have a little something to drink. 😉 Like the Chinese and Korean festivals though, it’s a holiday to celebrate the moon, and appreciate the hard work done during the year. The weather is usually cold and cloudy in Seattle, so my wife and I don’t really do this but the weather has been warm and nice this year, so perhaps we’ll do otsukimi afterall.
Speaking of mochi, there is a legend in Japanese tradition that the moon is made out of mochi by a rabbit that lives in the sky. As the rabbit pounds rice into mochi, the moon waxes (grows), then the rabbit eats the moon when it’s full and it wanes again. You can find this legend mentioned even in modern pop-culture. The opening theme-song of the anime 宇宙兄弟 (“Space Brothers”) has the line:
usagi ni makezu takaku tobu no sa
Which might be translated as “I won’t lose to the rabbit and take a great leap [to the moon]”.
天の原 Ama no hara
ふりさけ見れば Furisake mireba
春日なる Kasuga naru
三笠の山に Mikasa no yama ni
出でし月かも Ideshi tsuki kamo
And Professor Mostow translates it as:
As I gaze out, far
across the plains of heaven
ah, at Kasuga,
from behind Mount Mikasa,
it’s the same moon that came out then!
Happy Autumn Festival Everyone!