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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mid-Autumn Festival

Today is Mid-Autumn Festival, the day of the harvest moon, the biggest brightest moon of the year. On this day in China, families get together to sip tea, eat mooncakes & look at the moon, possibly playing a bit of mahjong & lighting a lantern or two.

When I was a little girl looking at the moon, I remember thinking how strange it was that everyone kept saying there was a man in the moon. When I looked at the moon, I saw a woman with a flowing gown dancing across the surface. (Take a look for yourself. Can you see her?) It wasn't until I was maybe five or six years old that I could finally see that the "man in the moon" was a big round face looking down at us.

It turns out that there are millions of people in Asia who saw the same thing I did, & who now tell the story during Mid-Autumn Festival of the woman who lives on the moon. As always, there are several versions of the story. You can read a couple of them here & here.

In a nutshell, a man who wanted to be immortal got hold of a make-you-immortal potion, but his wife through a series of events (depends on the version you're reading) swallowed it instead. The man was angry & tried to grab her, but she was already a goddess, so she flew into the air. Somehow (again, it depends on the version) she landed on the moon, where she spends her days with a rabbit who grinds herbs for medicine (that's another story).

The most important thing on this day in modern China is to spend the day with your family. Although they weren't thinking of the moon festival when they made their plans, my parents are arriving in Shanghai today, so I can celebrate the day in true Chinese fashion. I have a couple of mooncakes to share & we'll probably take a gander at the moon later tonight. Maybe we'll even be able to see the woman dancing across the surface.

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