Every year, on August 15 of the lunar calendar, the Countries of the East Asian Cultural Region happen the Mid-Autumn Festival jubilantly. Actually, in early August of the lunar calendar, there has been the color of the Mid-Autumn Festival. The Mid-Autumn Festival is the second big traditional festival after the Lunar New Year in the countries of the East Asian Cultural Sphere. Many people think that it has an origin in China. Although the Mid-Autumn Festival in the countries has the same points, it also has some different ones.
There are many ways to explain the origins of the mid-Autumn Festival. The legend relating to King Táng Míng Hoáng of Táng Dynasty in China has been mentioned by many people. The legend told that one night of 15 August of the lunar Calendar, while was watching the moon with the officers, the king wished he would go up to visit the moon once. Magician Dieu Phap Thien offered to help him. The magician used magic to fly him to the moon. Arriving at the moon, the king was warmly welcome. Hundreds of fairies wore colorful thin silk tunics with the hands holding pieces of white silk both danced and sang. That dance was called “Nghe Thuong”. Coming back to the earth, the king taught the dancers to dance to that dance and everyone praised. To commemorate the day visiting the moon, the king allowed the people in China to rest and entertain on August 15 of the lunar calendar every year. This custom has gradually been propagated to neighboring countries such as Japan, Korea, Vietnamese.
China is considered the “father” of the Mid-Autumn Festival. China has many interesting fairy tales and legends related to Mid-Autumn Festival such as King Táng Míng Hóang visiting the moon, Chang’e (The goddess on the moon) and Moon Rabbit on the moon. On these days, Chinese people often hang lanterns in front of the house and on the street. Relatives and friends wish good words when meeting with each other. Before the Mid-Autumn Festival’s Eve, no matter where people live, they return to reunite with their parents and grandparents to eat a rice meal together, so the Mid-Autumn Festival in China is also called the Reuniting Festival. On the Mid-Autumn Festival’s eve, people set up a table to offer offerings to the moon, praying for good things to come to their families. On the offering tray, there are always two types of traditional moon cakes: baked and flexible cakes. On the Mid-Autumn’s Eve, people drop lights on the river, drop Kong Ming lanterns to the sky for luck and happiness to family and relatives. They also have a lantern procession for children, lion dance and dragon dance.
Today, Japanese people no longer use the lunar calendar, however, the Mid-Autumn Festival is still celebrated and called Otsukimi Festival (The moon watching festival). On Otsukimi Festival’s Eve, Japanese people lay Tsukimi Dango cakes (Tsukimi Dango cakes are made from rice flour, soft round cakes with salty and sweet sauce, often skewered on bamboo sticks and served with green tea.) and a Suzuki weed vase on a wooden shelf, then place the shelf anywhere that they can see the moon most clearly for both eating the cakes and watching the moon. On Otsukimi Festival’s Eve, children participate in the procession of lanterns. The carp fish lanterns in Japan represent the courage of Japanese. The Moon Rabbit image appears in the Otsukimi Festival, without the Chang’e image like in China.
The Mid-Autumn Festival in Korea is called the Chuseok Festival. It lasted for 3 days, during that time everyone was resting and gathering with their families, even the children are far away, they have to return to reunite with their parents. During the Chuseok Festival, Koreans use newly harvested products such as meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, rice cakes to prepare gourmet dishes for their ancestors. Children also wear traditional costumes like adults, have fun and eat moon cakes. Korean moon cakes are called Songpyeon, made from rice flour, green beans, sugar and pine leaves, with a crescent moon or semicircle, not a circle or square like moon cakes in many Asian countries. In addition to traditional white, the cake is also variations with pink, dark blue, yellow.
The Mid-Autumn Festival (Vietnamese: Tết Trung Thu) is the second big festival after the Vietnamese New Year (Vietnamese: Tết Nguyên Đán). From July 1th to August 15th of the lunar calendar, on the street, there are so many shops displaying, selling mooncakes, lanterns, trumps, masks, lion heads. People usually buy mooncake boxes to offer to their grandparents, parents, teachers, people that helped them. On the Mid-Autumn Festival’s Eve, People lay mooncakes on a tray to offer God, Buddha, and ancestor, and then they eat the cakes, drink tea, watch the moon, talk to each other happily. Children hold lanterns walking in their houses or going out the streets. Wards or villages organize the Mid-Autumn Night for children with a lion dance program and games in the landscape of cool breeze and bright moon. On this occasion, children are offered lanterns, mooncakes and sweets. The drum sounds, singing, and cheers create a jubilant atmosphere. The fairy tales of Moon Lady and Moon Boy (Vietnamese: Chị Hằng, Chú Cuội) are mentioned a lot in the Mid-Autumn Festival.