The Mid-Autumn Festival (Pinyin: zhōng qīu jíe), Moon Festival, or, less commonly, Mooncake Festival (Pinyin: yùe bĭng jíe) is a traditional Chinese holiday falling on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar (usually late September). On the day of the Moon Festival, the full moon is at the year's roundest and brightest, which symbolizes family unity and togetherness.
According to Chinese traditions, on this day family members and friends gather to visit scenic spots, gaze at the moon, and eat mooncakes and pomeloes together. Brightly-lit lanterns are often carried around by children. Farmers furthermore celebrate the end of the agricultural season and the harvest on this date.
It is one of the two most important holidays in the Chinese calendar (the other being Chinese New Year) and is a legal holiday in several countries.
Popular legends associated with the festival speak of a goddess named Chang'e, a rabbit, and a woodcutter living on the moon. Shops selling mooncakes before the Mid-Autumn festival often display pictures of Chang'e floating to the moon.
The origin of the Autumn Moon Festival is not very clear. It is said that the festival originated from ancient times, when people held ceremonies in honor of the Moon Goddess, or to celebrate the mid-autumn harvest.
However, another version is that the Mid-Autumn Festival commemorates the uprisings in China against Mongol rulers in the early 14th century. Because unlike the Chinese, Mongols did not eat mooncakes, the rebels hid a small piece of note detailing rebellion plans inside each mooncake, which was then smuggled to compatriots. One common message on the note was "kill barbarians on August 15th."