The Mid-Autumn Festival, or Mooncake Festival, is traditionally celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month of Chinese lunar calendar. This year it falls on Oct 4. The festival, dating back to ancient China, pays homage to the moon and good harvest.
The use of ‘mid-autumn’ to describe the celebration first appeared in the Rites of Zhou, a book on bureaucracy and organisation written more than 2000 years ago. The name ‘mooncake’ to describe the sweet delicacy was used for the first time during the Tang Dynasty (618AD -907AD).
Like most Chinese festivals, it is steeped in history, legend and folklore. A popular legend tells a story of how the Han Chinese rebels made use of mooncakes to pass on secret messages in the final uprising against mongol rulers, leading to the creation of the Ming Dynasty in 1368.
There are also many tales around the origin of the festival. The most famous is about the beautiful Chang’e, who became the goddess of the moon after she took a longevity pill from a high-ranking deity. China’s lunar exploration programme is known as the Chang’e programme. The Chang’e 3, an unmanned lunar exploration mission, landed on the moon on Dec 14, 2013.
Today the festival is a major holiday in China and is celebrated by Chinese communities around the world. Atypical mooncake is a palm-sized pastry with an eggy treat inside. The largest mooncake ever made, according to the Guiness Book of World Records, weighs almost 2,500kg. It was prepared by culinary teams in Shanghai in 2013.