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What is Chinese Moon Festival and how is it celebrated?

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Moon Festival“Happy Moon Festival!”- from the New Zealand China Friendship Society. 

There are lots of Chinese holidays and festivals being celebrated in New Zealand by an increasing number of people each year. One such event is “Moon Festival”, which occurs on the same date each year – the 15th of September. 

The Moon Festival is also known by other names, such as the Mid-Autumn Festival and the Moon Cake Festival. 

But what exactly is Moon Festival and how do we celebrate it?

Moon Festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese Han calendar, on the night of the full moon that appears between early September and early October in the Gregorian calendar.  Ancient Chinese believed that the moon was at its brightest and roundest on this night, signifying a family reunion.  The middle of August in the Chinese calendar is also a time when crops, including fruit and vegetables, are harvested. To celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, we eat moon cakes and freshly picked fruits such as watermelon, we drink tea and cassia wine, and we enjoy banquets with family members. 

Please click here to find out how to join a branch of the NZCFS and participate in one of the many local Moon Festival celebrations being held in 2016 such as those in Auckland and Dunedin.

There are three fundamental concepts which are closely tied to one another in celebrating the Moon Festival:

  • Gathering, such as through family and friends coming together or harvesting crops for the festival.
  • Thanksgiving, giving thanks for the harvest or for harmonious unions
  • Prayer, such as for babies, a spouse, beauty, longevity, or for a good future

The following partial translation is from a very famous poem written by the Song dynasty poet Su Shi. The poem is intended to be sung to a melody called Water Melody (Shuǐ Diào Gē Tóu).  Su Shi wrote this poem on the night of the Moon Festival about 1000 years ago.  This poem expresses Su’s longing to see his younger brother, whom the poet hadn’t seen for seven years.

When did the bright moon first appear?

am raising a wine glass and asking the sky.

………..

Moonlight is revolving around the red pavilion,

Lowering to a silk-work door,

It shines upon my sleepless self.

The moon should not have resentment;

Why is it always full at times of separation?

People experience sorrow, joy, parting and reunion,

The moon can be dark, bright, full or on the wane;

Things have been this way since ancient times.

My wish is for people’s lives to be healthy and peaceful;

No matter how far we may be apart, together we look at the same wondrous moon. 

                     – Su Shi

If you weren’t able to come back home to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, you would still have a chance to be a poet like Su Shi – write some poetry to express your good wishes and greetings to your family, friends, neighbours and other people! 

Above the sea

The bright moon is hanging

In our hearts

A sense of nostalgia. 

                    – Tang Dynasty poet Zhang Jiuling

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