Chinese Harvest Festival
Most cultures have a harvest festival. China is no exception. The Mid-Autumn Festival 中秋节 (Zhong Qiu Jie) is one of the three most important, traditional Chinese holidays. (The other two are Chinese New Year and Dragon Boat Festival.)
It takes place on the fifteenth day of the eighth month (according to the lunar calendar). It is usually on or close to the time of the Harvest Moon, when the moon appears at its fullest during the autumn equinox.
It is also sometimes called the Mooncake Festival after the delicious treats eaten at this time of year. Traditionally, it is a time to meet with friends and family for a meal and watch the moon.
Legend of Chang E - The Moon Goddess
In ancient times, 10 suns scorched the earth until the fields could no longer produce crops and people were dying from the terrible drought. The hero Hou Yi shot down nine of the suns and saved the land from destruction.
As reward for saving the people, Hou Yi was made king and was given an immortality potion. Unfortunately, Hou Yi later became an evil ruler whom everyone hated. Even his wife, Chang E, despised him. She knew that if he took the immortality elixir, the nation would be destroyed by his never-ending evil. So, to save her countrymen, Chang E drank the potion herself.
Her body became so light that she flew into the air and went to live on the moon where she became the Moon Goddess, accompanied by her jade rabbit.
On the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival, look for Chang E on the surface of the full moon.
If you'd like the entire background of the Mid-Autumn Festival in a convenient 2 page PDF format, click here.
"When the moon is round, families unite."
The Moon Lady
In this picture book for grades 4-6, a grandmother recounts a story from her childhood to her three granddaughters. On the night of the Mid Autumn Festival, she gets separated from her family. The story tells her adventures in getting back to her family.
Chinese Festivals Video
This video begins with the Mid-Autumn Festival and goes on to describe other traditional Chinese holidays.
Ways to Celebrate Mid Autumn Festival
Origin of Mooncakes
During the 14th century Yuan dynasty, China was ruled by the Mongols. Many Chinese people desired to revolt against the Mongols. So they came up with a clever plan to communicate their revolution -- secret messages about the time and place of the revolt were hidden inside mooncakes. When Chinese citizens sliced the mooncakes, they found the secret messages about the revolt and joined in the effort. The revolt (on the night of the Mid Autumn Festival) was successful in driving the Mongols out of China, thanks to the mooncake communication.
The filling of a moon cake is usually sweet, but can also be savory. Nuts, lotus paste, red bean paste, and dates are common fillings. A cooked egg yolk is often embedded in the very center. A few people still make homemade mooncakes using wooden molds. But most people buy the commercial varieties packaged in lovely tins and boxes.
Mooncakes are usually round like the moon and symbollize togetherness and harmony. (Less frequently you will find square shaped mooncakes.) Molds made of metal, wood or plastic are used to press beautiful designs into the mooncakes.
To make authentic mooncakes, you need a mold like this. Traditionally the molds were always wooden. But today you can also find plastic ones.
The Mid-Autumn Moon
A full moon hangs high in the chilly sky,
All say it's the same everywhere, round and bright.
But how can one be sure thousands of li away
Wind and perhaps rain may not be marring the night?
by Li Qiao
Round is a Mooncake - A Book of Shapes
A shape book themed around a Mid-Autumn Festival evening.
Homeschool Share has a free unit and printables to go along with this book.
Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats - A Treasury of Chinese Holiday Tales, Activities & Recipes
This activity guide features five Chinese festivals: Chinese New Year and the Lantern Festival, Tomb Sweeping (Qing Ming) Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival, and the Mid-Autumn Festival. Each chapter includesthe history and customs of the holiday plus recipes, crafts, or games to add a hands-on element to your study.
Thanking the Moon - Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival
This simple picture book features a Chinese family celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival with a night time picnic under the moon.
Printables for Mid-Autumn Festival
- Crayola Coloring Page
This simple coloring page brings the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival a little closer to home with a a huge moon in the sky over a suburban street.
- Child Book Free Coloring Pages
Ten different coloring pages featuring characters from the myths of the Mid-Autumn Festival and, of course, a mooncake!
- Mid-Autumn Festival Printables
A minibook template, some graphics, and notebooking pages make up this freebie I created.
- Harvest Moon Coloring Page
This page features pumpkins, a full moon, and a haystack. Although it is part of a Halloween set, it is applicable to Mid Autumn Festival.
- Moon Phases Circle Book #1
Study about the moon during Mid Autumn Festival. This circle book turns with the aid of a paper fastener. This version is appropriate for younger children. If you find it too simplistic, try the next link.
- Moon Phases Circle Book #2
This is the same format as the book template above but slightly more advanced. If you find the graphic of the wizard on the cover to be distracting, just cover it up with your own more appropriate image that suits the scientific nature of this resour
- Moon Phase Cards
Make flashcards, a minibook, or create a game with these printables.
- Lantern Printable Minibook
A freebie from Homeschool Share -- a beautiful printable Chinese styled lantern shape book.