Mid-Autumn Festival, also called “Moon Festival”, is celebrated in Taiwan and elsewhere in East Asia to mark the fall harvest and, to some, to offer traditional worship to the moon.
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It comes on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Han Chinese calendar and falls on the full moon of either September or October on the Western calendar.
Ethnic Chinese have been observing this holiday since at least the 10th Century B.C., and it has been extremely popular since the Tang Dynasty of the 7th through 10th Centuries A.D. Today, it is a day of joining together to feast and fellowship with family and friends, as much as a time when farmers give thanks at local temples for the recent harvest. Many also go to temples to pray for specific requests, such as to marry one’s desired partner, to give birth to a child, or to live a long, prosperous life.
There are many ancient myths and fables connected to Mid-Autumn Festival. These are often told to young children this time of year, but adults “are allowed to” listen in too if they wish. You may hear about the sun and moon being married and the stars being their children, about the full moon being pregnant and the crescent moon having shrunk after giving birth. You will easily encounter the legend of Chang’e, but it’s hard to say which version, for there are many. One version has Chang’e the wife of a cruel emperor who is planning to drink a magic elixir that will make him live forever. To prevent everlasting oppression, she drinks the elixir herself and then flies off to become the moon goddess.
Unlike China, Taiwan is not known for paper lantern displays during Mid-Autumn Festival, these being mostly put out on the 15th day of Chinese New Year, but travellers will still find much to do, such as the following:
- Go moon gazing. You don’t have to worship the moon to look at it and enjoy its “effulgence.” In Taipei, some of the best moon-gazing spots are the Danshui Fishing Wharf and Daan Park. Outside of Taipei, try Sizhi Bay or Wuling Farm near Taichung. The moon, you will find, is quite beautiful to behold, and some years the moon is extra large, when in the closest point of its orbit to Earth, or blood red, during a full lunar eclipse.
- Eat mooncakes, which are so commonly eaten this time of year that Mid-Autumn Festival’s alternate name is “Mooncake Festival.” Mooncakes are always round, like the moon, but the come in endless varieties. Traditional flavours have the taste of roast pork and five kinds of seeds or nuts. Sometimes, they hide a duck egg or yolk inside. You will find there are also a plethora of newer flavours, such as green tea or chocolate.
- Have a barbecue, like the locals will be doing. Many will set up the grill on the sidewalk that fronts their home, but others will go to parks to feast on things like roast boar, pomelos, mooncakes (of course), and perhaps, cassia wine. In Taipei, there are some 20 riverside parks to barbecue at, some of the best being Dajia Riverside Park and Huazhong Riverside Park.
If in Taiwan during Mid-Autumn Festival, you will find there are many enjoyable events to participate in that will help you better understand Taiwanese culture.