The second most popular festival after the Chinese New Year, the Mid-Autumn festival (Chung Chou Chi) is one the major festivals of the Chinese calendar. It falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar moon. It is an occasion for family members to sit together over moon cakes, fruits, shell boiled groundnuts, have tea and “appreciate” the moon.
Because of the association with moon cakes and lanterns, this festival is popularly known also as the “Moon Festival” or the “Lantern Festival”.
The Legend of the Moon Fairy
The earth once had ten suns circling it. The suns used to take turns to shine on the earth so that there was sufficient warmth and light. One day all the ten suns got it into their heads that it would be great fun if they all appeared together which they did. The combined heat of the tens suns was just too much to bear and everything on earth started drying up.
Hong Yi was the archer sent down to the earth to help the people. He shot nine of the suns but spared the tenth sun with a stiff warning not to repeat the prank again. The Jade Emperor whose suns (sons) they were got very angry with Hong Yi for shooting down his sons. He banned Hong Yi and his wife Chang Er from going back to Heaven and so they were stuck on earth.
But Hong Yi did not mind staying on earth as he had earned a lot of admirers after he had saved the earth and so, he enjoyed all the attention he was getting. But his wife Chang Er was very sad. She did not like living on the earth and longed to get back to heaven where they could be immortal. Moreover, Hong Yi seemed like a changed man now. Success got into his head and he became proud and demanding and dominating. His wife found life here on earth unbearable. One Mid-Autumn night she stole the “pill of immortality” from her husband and found herself floating upwards. She had just enough time to grab her pet jade rabbit and together, they flew towards the moon. They regretted but there they stayed trying to make a pill that would get them back to earth again. Thus, even today we see the shadows of Chang Er and her pet rabbit in the moon making medicine on the brightest night of the mid-Autumn.