Many Asian friends will be wishing each other a happy Mid-Autumn Festival on September 24, 2018. For us in the U.S. and elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere, this weekend’s autumnal equinox and the coming week’s Harvest Moon are signs that autumn is here. Meanwhile, in China, Taiwan, Vietnam and other parts of Asia, the focus is on the annual Mid-Autumn Festival, which by tradition also carries a strong connection to the full moon.
It’s sometimes called the Moon Festival in honor of the upcoming full moon. It’s also called the Mooncake Festival for a traditional baked delicacy exchanged among family and friends.
The date of the Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar. That timing places the festival in September or early October in the Gregorian calendar, close to the autumnal equinox, every year.
The Mid-Autumn Festival or Moon Festival features the beautiful idea that we all see the same moon phase on or around the same date. There are some small differences due to time zone, but, for the most part, the moon looks the same to all of us as night falls across the globe. The website ChineseFortuneCalendar.com says:
The Moon Festival is a holiday in China. It’s an occasion for family reunion. Chinese families like to get together to eat the mooncakes and watch the moon at the Moon Festival night. For the people are out of town or for Chinese are from China stay in USA, they miss their family or the lover at home and share the same moon at the night of the Moon Festival before the Internet gets popular.
Another tradition at the Mid-Autumn Festival is lanterns, both in the sky and on the ground. After a family dinner, Asian children are said to carry lanterns and stroll in parks or gardens. As part of the festival, lanterns are also released into the sky.
And, traditionally, matchmaking has been part of the Mid-Autumn Festival. Some parts of China are said to feature dances held to help young men and women find partners, although I don’t know how widely this tradition is practiced in today’s world. According to Wikipedia:
Young women are encouraged to throw their handkerchiefs to the crowd. The young man who catches and returns the handkerchief has a chance of romance.
Bottom line: Happy Harvest Moon this week to friends in the Western Hemisphere, and to our friends in Asia … happy Mid-Autumn Festival!
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.