Moon Festival at MoCA

IMG_4200The Moon Festival, also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival or the Moon Cake Festival, is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month. This year it was held on September 19th.

Just like Chinese New Year, the Moon Festival isn’t a one day event. It involves several festivities that lead up to the night of the full moon.

The Museum of Chinese in America (MoCa) held their family day celebration of the Moon Festival, on September 21st, the weekend after the first day of the festival. Families enjoyed activities such as lantern making, moon cake tasting, and listening to stories of the moon goddess.

The museum’s version of the legend surrounding the origin of this festival tells the tale of the moon goddess Chang E and an imperial archer named Hou Yi. Both goddess and archer had an immense love for one another but an even greater desire for immortality. When Yi was rewarded with an elixir that granted him the ability to live forever, Chang E drank it in envy while he was away. Not realizing she had to wait a year before drinking it, she was punished by being forced to live on the moon. Wanting to be closer to his love, Yi built a palace on the sun.

They visit each other on the 15th day of each lunar month. Some say their love is the source of the moon’s brightness on this night.

On this night, people light up lanterns in honor of the moon’s brightness. Parents also allow young kids to stay up late in order to see the moon in all of its glory.


Michael Robison, an employee at MoCa, described some of the ways in which the Mid- Autumn Festival is celebrated.

“This time of the year was celebrated in China because the harvest was at its fullest, and families would come together and have picnics. It can be compared to the American holiday of Thanksgiving, but unlike Thanksgiving, the Moon Festival is celebrated over the course of almost 2 weeks, it’s kind of a rolling thing.”

The MoCA also held a moon cake tasting activity. Moon cakes generally have a red bean, lotus bean, or green tea paste core. In addition, Godiva provided the museum with chocolate moon cakes, a relatively new introduction to the traditional Chinese holiday.

Robison, who led the moon cake tasting, introduced the desserts with some history.

“Back in the 1200s, when China was under Mongol rule, moon cakes were actually utilized by spies. They would put notes in the moon cakes and send them to nearby villages to coordinate a plan for a revolution.”

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