The advent of the fall season is eagerly awaited in most parts of the world, and it is no different here in Hong Kong. It maybe still hot and sultry in the SAR but according to the lunar calendar autumn is already upon us as we have entered the eighth month of the year. The Chinese celebrate this change of seasons by feting the moon. However, this practice of paying homage to the moon is not a recent phenomenon rather it dates back more than 3000 years to the era of the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC).
The celebration of the Mid-Autumn festival is slated for the15th day of the eighth month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar. This day usually coincides with the appearance of a new full moon. The festival usually spans three days as people welcome the new moon on the 14th day and then bid adieu to the celestial body as it begins to wane on the 16th day. This year the festival will be celebrated from the 26th to the 29th of September. As with several other Chinese festivals, the Mid-Autumn festival also has various legends associated with its origin.
Sacrifices to the moon to ensure a good harvest
The practice of offering sacrifices and celebrating the moon originated with the Tang Dynasty and it gained in popularity during the reign of the Song Dynasty until it was firmly established during the Ming and Qing dynasties. At first the practice of offering sacrifices to the moon were the domain of Emperors and wealthy noblemen but down the ages it came to be celebrated by the general public as well. Families and friends gathered together to offer sacrifices such as osmanthus-flavored wine and orb-shaped fruits such as pears, oranges, grapes and pomegranates to the moon.
The term ‘Mid-Autumn’ first appeared in literature published during the reign of the Zhou dynasty.