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In the 14th century, the people of China were ready to launch a revolt against the Yuan Dynasty. Legend says they coordinated the start of the revolution by passing messages inside mooncakes — small pastries that are part of the celebration of mid-autumn. The messages said the rebellion would begin on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar — the equivalent of the Harvest Moon in the western calendar.
The legend may or may not be true, but the Mid-Autumn Festival is still one of the most important events in the Chinese calendar — and it’s still tied to the Moon. And the festival is getting underway now, because tonight is the night of the Harvest Moon — the full Moon closest to the autumnal equinox.
There are many legends associated with the Mid-Autumn Festival. Most are tied to the moon goddess Chang-E. One version says she swallowed a pill of immortality that was intended for her husband. The angry husband chased her across the sky, but she escaped to the Moon, where she still lives today.
Mooncakes have been part of the celebration for centuries. They’re small pastries with a thick filling — traditionally a paste made from beans or lotus seeds, although modern versions are more varied. Some include an egg yolk in the center to symbolize the Moon. They’re often decorated with the Chinese character for harmony, along with lunar symbols. They celebrate the Moon of mid-autumn — the Harvest Moon.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2012
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