The legend behind the Mid Autumn Festival varies but they all surround a handsome couple: Chang Er and Hou-yi. Hou Yi is the ancient hero who, under the order of the gods, shot down 9 of the 10 Suns that suddenly appeared in the skies causing disasters and chaos on Earth. After Hou Yi successfully completed his task, he met a beautiful young lady named Chang Er and the pair fell in love very quickly and got married.
The gods were very pleased with Hou Yi and rewarded him with an elixir of life so the he and his beautiful wife could have immortality. However, an evil man found out about the elixir, murdered Hou Yi and forced Chang Er to give up the elixir. Chang Er was devastated by her husband’s death and retaliated by drinking all of it. It is said that, after drinking the elixir, she became so light that she floated away into the skies towards the Moon. The Moon is known as “Moon Palace” by the Chinese and is described as a cold and lonely place. Chang Er chooses to live there because it is the closest to Earth, where she lived with Hou Yi. Legend has it that those who witnessed Chang Er floating to the Moon noted that she was most beautiful on this night. Subsequently she became known as the Moon Goddess who will bestow blessings and beauty on those who worship her. As a tradition, new toiletries and cosmetics are placed together with other offerings on the altar for her blessings on this night.
Celebrating Mid- Autumn festival, or the Moon cake festival, is still very popular today. Food that is synonymous with the Mid-Autumn festival is such as “Moon cakes” and pomelos. Traditional Moon cakes were filled with lotus seed paste and egg yolk only but today the filling in the moon cake can vary and the cake comes in all shapes and sizes. Pomelos are fruits that are harvested in Autumn in some parts of China and thus symbolize plenty and abundance.
It is a tradition to gift your friends, employer, clients and relatives moon cakes just before Mid Autumn festival. Reunion dinners or family gatherings are organized. In ancient times, dinners were served on the balcony, patio or in the open where people could recite poetry and gaze at the moon. It is an exciting time for children because, as part of the tradition, they are given lanterns to carry and play with in the neighbourhood.