The Moon Festival is an exciting time for Chinese children. It is a rare event that a child is allowed to stay up way past bedtime, and spent outdoors at that!
The Moon Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar. This year 2008, the Chinese Moon Festival falls on September 14th. It is the time for families to get together again, to enjoy a good dinner and enjoy the moon outdoors.
To children, this Chinese holiday can be considered their lantern festival. Some children make their own lanterns before the night of the Eight-fifteen. After the moon festival dinner, the family prepares to go out and moon-gaze. Children are asked to carry colorful lanterns to light the path of the adults as they go to honor the moon. These lanterns may be made by the child, or store-bought. Lanterns may be shaped like rabbits, fish, dragons, butterflies and other animals. Carrying a horse lantern is very special for a child, as it is believed that the moon travels with the speed of a horse.
Mooncakes are popular fare as the families gaze upon the moon. But for children, thick wheat flour cookies are also given. These wheat cookies may be shaped like fish crabs, dragons and pigs. Pig cookies are available in bright colored plastic containers with red carrying string.
After the family picks a spot, prayers are offered to give thanks for blessings and for good family ties.
Elders tell the young people the legends about the moon and why this festival is celebrated. The young people listen intently and look at the moon, some hoping to catch a glimpse of the Lady on the moon.
Here are some stories that the young people may commonly hear.
· In ancient China, it was said that 10 suns arose and the extreme heat caused famine. Hou Yi the archer shot down 9 of the sun. The Jade Emperor awarded him the Elixir of Life for his heroic effort. Hou Yi’s wife, Chang’E, takes the elixir. She floats up to the moon and Hou Yi tries to chase her through the heavens, but he is not able to get her back. The gods allow them to meet again once a month, when the moon is full.
· The Jade Rabbit accompanies Chang’E on the moon. The rabbit is commonly shown using a pestle and mortar, continually trying but failing to make the Elixir of Life.
· Wu Gang sought immortality. This angered the gods that they sentenced Wu Gang to cut the Tree of Immortality on the moon. However, every time Wu Gang succeeds in cutting down the magical tree, it grows right back.
· Moon Minister of Marriage. It is said that the old Minister of Marriage who lived on the moon matches future couples by connecting baby girls and baby boys with an enchanted red thread.
When the moon gazing takes place near a body of water, children let their lanterns float on the water. They watch as the lanterns float away, and wait until the lights are not visible anymore.
The Moon Festival is also the time for children to make new friends. With all the excitement happening, it is easy for a child to gain a new friend while playing in the night darkness. With all the magical stories heard that night, it is thrilling to dare each other to do brave things in the dark or to search out the Lady on the moon.
Children’s Mid-Autumn Moon Festival in Vietnam
In Vietnam, the Moon Festival is also a family holiday, whose main celebrators are the children. The Vietnamese celebrate this holiday the same time as the Chinese day. This festival is honored by children marching to processions. The kids carry star-shaped lanterns. They sway as they walk and chant rhymes.
On this night, parents also tell their children fantastic fables, with moral lessons to encourage a child to perform well in school.
The Moon Festival is definitely a fun time, not only for adults, but for children as well.
Ray Ritchey is the owner of the site ChildBook.com which for over 10 years has been helping Children in the United States. They do this by selling Chinese Children's books, Chinese and English. Help your child learn Chinese with our Chinese Made Easy for kids products.