Why is Waygo celebrating you ask? Well because today is the 15th day of the 8th month in the Chinese calendar. Huh?
Earth to non-moon fanatics! Today is 中秋节 (zhōngqiū jié)! One of China’s most famous festivals, the Mid-Autumn festival is also known as the Moon Festival because of the full moon that hits your eye like a big pizza pie tonight. The Mid-Autumn Festival dates back to the Shang Dynasty (1600–1046 BC), making it older than other universally celebrated holidays like Christmas, Rosh Hashanah, and Eid al-Fitr. The festival originated as a celebration of the summer’s harvest. Still fundamental to the festival today is gathering with loved ones in thanksgiving for the harvest, albeit today the “harvest” is not usually meant in the traditional sense of crops, but a harvest of other gifts and relationships.
Typical Mid-Autumn Festival traditions include eating (or making) mooncakes, moon-gazing, and lighting lanterns. Now, with mobile phones nearly universal in China, sending wishes via text is also the norm. Even more festive than an ordinary text message? Try the free messaging app, Cubie Messenger, which allows you to create and send drawings, photos, video, and voice messages.
月饼 (yuè bĭng): Mooncake
Enjoying mooncakes is the Mid-Autumn Festival’s most well-known tradition. Mooncakes are round pastries about 3 inches wide and 1-2 inches thick. A filling of red beans or lotus root is surrounded by a thin pastry crust and oftentimes, you’ll find a duck egg yolk at the center. Mooncakes are usually sliced and shared among a group, rather than enjoyed individually.
In Chinese culture, a round shape signifies unity and wholeness, so sharing mooncakes with family and friends signifies a united family. As the saying goes, the family that eats mooncakes together, stays together. While some families make their own mooncakes, most people today buy mooncakes from a bakery, which usually set up a counter specifically for the sale of mooncakes, as huge crowds of mooncake-seekers converge as the holiday approaches.
Gifting mooncakes to colleagues is hugely common, even expected. As with the commercialization of any holiday, there are countless variations of mooncakes today, from Häagen-Dazs ice cream mooncakes to mochi mooncakes. Almost as delectable as the mooncakes is the elaborate packaging, complete with styled ribbons, top-quality materials, and even hidden compartments. An order of mooncakes can easily cost hundreds of dollars, especially if pressured to impress colleagues with impressive packages from well-known bakeries. Earlier this month, CNN revealed a story about Chinese government officials purchasing mooncakes with public money–meaning this year, you might be disappointed by the mooncakes you receive from your government official friends.
Gazing at the Moon
Besides gifting and eating mooncakes, the other widely-practiced tradition celebrates the full moon, an ancient custom practiced in hopes for a successful harvest the upcoming year, since the moon has long been associated with new life. Have you heard of the Zhuang fable where the sun and moon are a couple and the stars are their children? When the moon is full, she is pregnant, and once she gives birth to a child, she morphs into a crescent. This fable lead to the worshiping and presenting of offerings to the moon when she is “pregnant.”
This past weekend, San Francisco’s Chinatown started the fanfare with the Autumn Moon Festival Street Fair, packed with food stands, craft booths, stage entertainment, and lion dancers.
So now that you know today is a particularly special one, it’s time to eat some moon cake and go outside to appreciate the moon. And remember, according to the Zhuang people, there will be another star child to join the night sky!
From all of us here at Waygo, 中秋快乐! (zhōngqiū kuàilè!): Happy Mid-Autumn festival!
*In reference to today’s post title “Waygo is Over the Moon,” we realize not all Waygo users are native English speakers. Let us explain. The expression “to be over the moon” means to be super excited.