September is a big month for our Moon. On Sept. 22, Astronomers from around the world will turn their telescopes to our celestial companion on Sept. 22 for International Observe the Moon Night.
Eight days later, on Sept. 30, many celebrants will participate in the annual Mid-Autumn Festival or Moon Festival.
The Moon Festival
According to Dr. Eric Yang, , director of the Confucius Institute in the Asian Studies Program at the University of Buffalo, The Moon Festival has been celebrated by Chinese and Vietnamese people, for more than 3,000 years, and dates back to moon worship in China's Shang Dynasty. It remains one of the most important celebrations in the Chinese calendar.
Yang says the Moon Festival is traditionally held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, which is usually around late September or early October in the Gregorian calendar. This year the festival date falls on Sept. 30, when the moon is at its fullest and roundest.
"The Moon Festival is a legal holiday in China and several other Asian countries," Yang says, "and farmers celebrate the end of the summer harvesting season on this date. Traditionally, the Chinese will gather with family and friends to admire the bright mid-autumn harvest moon, and eat moon cakes and pomelos (a citrus fruit common to Southeast Asia) under the moon together."
He says the mooncake -- of which there are many varieties -- is the traditional food of this festival, which is why the celebration is sometimes referred to as the "Mooncake Festival." The mid-autumn planting of trees, dragon dances and burning incense are also associated with the celebration.