Photo of the week. Mid-Autumn Festival in China

Buddhist novices and believers recite Buddha's script during a ceremony to celebrate the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival at Duoc Thuong pagoda, outside Hanoi September 11, 2011 (REUTERS/Kham)

On September 11th, 2011 the whole China celebrated Mid-Autumn Festival. The Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節), also known as the Moon Festival or Mooncake Festival or Zhongqiu Festival, is a popular lunar harvest festival celebrated by Chinese and Vietnamese people. A description of the festival first appeared in Rites of Zhou, a written collection of rituals of the Western Zhou Dynasty from 3,000 years ago. The celebration became popular during the early Tang Dynasty. The festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, which is in September or early October in the Gregorian calendar, close to the autumnal equinox. The Government of the People’s Republic of China listed the festival as an “intangible cultural heritage” in 2006, and it was made a Chinese public holiday in 2008. It is also a Taiwanese public holiday.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the few most important holidays in the Chinese calendar, the others being Spring Festival and Winter Solstice. Accompanying the celebration, there are additional cultural or regional customs, such as:

  • Eating mooncakes
  • Matchmaking. In some parts of China, dances are held for young men and women to find partners. “One by one, 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.”
  • Carrying brightly lit lanterns, lighting lanterns on towers, floating sky lanterns
  • Burning incense in reverence to deities including Chang’e
  • Fire Dragon Dances
  • Moon rabbit is a traditional icon

Two gold figurines in the shape of mooncakes (REUTERS/Stringer)

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