Food items that look like the moon are popular at the Mooncake Festival, including the pomelo – a large sweet grapefruit that is in season in the fall. Other seasonal fruits that are popular include persimmons and pomegranates.
Many people celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival by lighting paper lanterns, which they carry on the end of a stick, or by lighting sky lanterns, paper balloons that float into the sky with the buoyancy provided by the hot lantern lit under them. Dragon dances are also popular performances at this time, and many people wear traditional Chinese clothing.
Mid-Autumn Festival Chinese Legends
Many of the stories surrounding the Mid-Autumn Festival center around the story of Chang’e, the lady who, according to legend, lives on the moon along with her companion, the Jade Rabbit. Chang’e was purportedly the wife of a famous hunter, whose search for eternal life finally yielded a single pill of immortality.
Chang’e accidentally swallowed the pill and became an immortal, floating up to the moon and leaving her husband behind on earth. Many Chinese people burn incense to the Moon Goddess, and her image is often featured on boxes of mooncakes.
Another story about mooncakes comes from Chinese folklore. In this legend, Ming dynasty fighters who were rebelling against the Mongolian Yuan dynasty used mooncakes to smuggle messages to and from rebel bands, enabling them to defeat the Mongols.
In China and in many Asian countries, Chinese mooncake festival is a legal holiday, and many people return to their hometown to celebrate this important Chinese festival with their families.