The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, is one of the most popular holidays in China. It’s held on the 15th day of the 8th month in the Chinese calendar, or around late September or early October in the Gregorian calendar. It also parallels the autumnal equinox of the solar calendar, when the moon is at its fullest and roundest.
According to “Li-Ji” 礼记 , an ancient Chinese book recording customs and ceremonies, the Chinese Emperor offers sacrifices to the sun in spring and the moon in autumn. Farmers celebrate the end of the summer harvesting season on this date, while traditionally Chinese family members and friends will gather to admire the bright mid-autumn moon, eat mooncakes and pomelos together. Accompanying the celebration, there are additional cultural or regional customs, such as those involving lanterns and burning incense in reverence to deities, including Chang’e, the Moon Goddess of Immortality.
The traditional food of this festival, the mooncake, comes in many different varieties. My favorite variety is the classic combination of lotus seed paste with a salted duck egg yolk 莲蓉咸鸭蛋. It’s an acquired taste but IMHO (in my humble opinion), the sweet/salty taste is definitely worth one’s while to acquire. Other traditional varieties include: red bean paste 红豆, jujube paste 枣泥, five kernel 五仁 and salt and pepper 椒盐. However, there are also new varieties appearing constantly on the market such as taro paste 芋头, pineapple 凤梨, blueberry 蓝莓, and yes, coffee 咖啡and chocolate 巧克力. And if you are lucky, you might be able to get your hands on durian 榴莲 mooncakes. Heaven..
And there is a nice legend that goes with mooncakes, too. Apparently, they were used by the Ming revolutionaries to secretly distribute letters in order to overthrow the Mongolian rulers of China in the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368 AD). Zhu Yuanzhang 朱元璋, who later became the first emperor of the Ming dynasty, and his advisor Liu Bowen 刘伯温 circulated a rumor that a deadly plague was spreading and the only way to prevent it was to eat special mooncakes. Then they quickly distributed the mooncakes, which contained a secret message coordinating the Han Chinese revolt on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month.
So dig into a mooncake and think of history past.