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Lanterns and Moon Cakes

Holidays are an important part of every culture, and celebrations of harvest time figure prominently in many of them. Throughout the world today, many culturally Chinese families will be observing one of their biggest annual festivals known as Mid-Autumn Festival, or Zhong Qiu Jie.

Although the origins of the holiday date back to the Shang Dynasty, around the same time that Moses was leading the Israelites out of Egypt, Mid-Autumn Festival did not become a major celebration until the time of the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

The Myth

Holidays are typically surrounded by colorful myths, and this one is no exception. As the story goes, there was an archer named Hou Yi who was married to Chang'e. Because of his skill with the bow, Hou Yi was given the elixir of immortality, but he declined to use it as it would separate him from the wife he loved. So he gave the elixir to Chang’e for safe-keeping. But one of his apprentices, Peng Meng, knew about the elixir and tried to steal it while Hou Yi was out hunting. Rather than give it to Peng Meng, Chang’e swallowed the potion, hoping she could live on the moon and still be close to her husband.

When Hou Yi returned and saw what happened, he was saddened that they could not be together and set her favorite fruits and cakes out under the moon in his yard. Out of sympathy, others began to do the same, and that is supposedly how the tradition began where people sit under the moon and eat the special moon cakes each year on this day.

The Meaning

Festivals often represent what cultures hold dear. There are three fundamental concepts surrounding the celebration of Mid-Autumn Festival. The first is gathering. The roundness of the moon itself symbolizes family reunion, and so it’s important to be together with one’s extended family on this day. The second is thanksgiving. Not unlike the American holiday in November, people express gratefulness for the harvest. The third is prayer. People use this time to ask for blessings such as babies, a spouse, or a good future. Although practices may have changed over the years, these three elements have stood the test of time.

“Could you make a connection using Hou Yi as an example of one who gave up immortality for the love of his bride as Jesus did for his church?”

So, wherever you are, if you happen to meet someone from an Asian or Chinese background, wish them a happy Mid-Autumn Festival. You might even use the meaning behind the holiday to build a bridge to sharing about Jesus. Could you make a connection using Hou Yi as an example of one who gave up immortality for the love of his bride as Jesus did for his church? Perhaps. Or you could certainly talk about the importance of family and being grateful to God for his many blessings.

On behalf of Create International Taiwan, we would like to wish you all a Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!

- Dave H.

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