Growing up in Anhui province, Mid-Autumn Day has always been a big festival for my family. When I was a child we liked sitting on the balcony of our apartment at night to enjoy the full moon while eating moon cakes and pomegranates. After a night of chewing and spitting red seeds that stained my hands, my mouth would go numb. Somehow the moon doesn’t appear so clear to me now, but the tradition of eating on this day remains.
The story behind Mid-Autumn Day takes place in ancient times and is centered around Houyi (后羿). There are many versions of the story, but one of the more popular ones goes like this. Houyi saved people the world from violent weather by shooting down nine out of ten suns. As a reward, he was given two pills that granted eternal life which he wanted to share with his beautiful wife Chang’e (嫦娥). But Pengmeng (蓬蒙), one of Houyi’s many apprentice archers, wanted the pills. So Chang’e swallowed both pills of immortality, became a god, and flew off to the moon.
Now, every year, to honor and remember his wife Chang’e, Houyi asks people to prepare food and gaze at the moon on the same day every year. And while you’re biting into a delicious moon cake, think of your loved ones, wherever they are.