The celebration I enjoyed most in China was definitely the Mid-Autumn Festival, 中秋节. And not just because of the delicious Moon Cake we ate :)
The concept of "Mid-Autumn" is interesting in itself. The festival is held on the fifth day of the eight month of the lunar calendar with full moon at night, which corresponds to late September to early October. This is quite surprising when living in Beijing because the weather is still hot and sunny and it feels more like summertime than mid-autumn. But in the Chinese tradition, Autumn begins with the first signs of the nature declining, even if they are barely perceptible.
We continue celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival even after we left China and moved to Europe and here is why:
1. Because the moon is so beautiful and contemplating it is an ecstatic experience, filled with poetry. One important part of the Mid-Autumn festival is the contemplation of the moon. Because the weather is still so nice, people have picnics in orchards and diners in the gardens while watching the full moon highlighted by the Chinese red lanterns. The image of the full moon lighting up the Chinese countryside, close to the Great Wall, is one of my best memories.
2. Through this celebration, we had a closer look into the Chinese culture. Living abroad comes with many challenges but also with wonderful opportunities to discover a new culture. Holidays and celebrations are perfect for that. During the Mid-Autumn Festival, we discovered new places, met interesting people, tasted many new dishes, and this brought us closer to the culture of the country we lived in.
3. I love the traditional values celebrated by the Mid-Autumn Festival.
The festival is a harvest celebration and like in many other cultures, people have created this opportunity to thank the nature for the crops and the food that will be used during wintertime. So it's about gratitude...
It's also about family and gathering. Chinese people travel back to the villages and cities where their parents live. Family reunions are kept that evening and in the countryside people harvest together.
An important component of many Chinese festivals and worships is that people ask for something they want in their lives. I am no fool. I know that in the real life, and especially in the modern China, material satisfaction is very important so many prayers go for more money and more belongings... But... I love see this as a way of setting an intention. It's up to us to use this celebration to set an intention for who and how we want to be: healthy, happy, joyful, ...
4. And yes, I confess, I love the Moon Cakes, these beautiful cakes shaped as a moon:
Mind you, they don't all suit out "Laowai" (foreigner) palate. I love those filled with red beans paste but I remember having tried some very... euh... surprising? ones. And I haven't tried all the combinations ;) I remember at my first Mid-Autumn Festival, just after my arrival in China, the owner of a small food stall told me with a polite smile: "You try this one. Laowai like this one". I knew from his smile that he won't sell me the one I wanted to buy and it's probably better for me not to try it.
A delicious recipe of Moon Cakes here.