September 11: Moon Festival
This mid-autumn Chinese celebration of the full moon and moon goddess is also known as the "moon cake festival". It occurs on the night of the full moon in the eighth month of the Chinese year.
Story to read out to pupils
There is a Chinese story about three wise spirits. One day, they turned themselves into wizened old men and went begging for something to eat. On their way, they met a fox, a monkey and a rabbit. The fox and the monkey both had food which they gave to the old men. The rabbit had nothing to give. Instead, he jumped into a nearby blazing fire to cook himself. The three spirits were so moved by the rabbit's self-sacrifice that they let him live in a moon palace where he became the "Jade Rabbit".
The beauty of the mid-autumn full moon is associated with women because of the moon's "yin" qualities. For the Chinese, its shape also symbolises reunion, so the festival has become a time for family gatherings and meals followed by night-time processions or visits to a park. It is a chance for busy people to appreciate nature and love. As a Chinese proverb says: "When the moon is full, mankind is one."
At this festival, "moon cakes" are made from nuts, mashed red beans, sesame or lotus seed paste and dates wrapped in pastry. They recall an historic uprising against Mongolian rule, when leaders of the rebellion secretly ordered the making and circulation of special cakes containing messages outlining their plan. Successful in outcome, it led to the establishment of the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368-1644).
Subject to safety regulations, light a candle or Chinese lantern and encourage a group to focus on its light in silence and without moving for one or two minutes. Before starting, they might be encouraged to think or meditate on their hopes for their families during the coming months. Joss sticks might be burned during this period.
Encourage the group to learn and remember the Chinese proverb (see above).
Moon cakes can be bought in London's Chinatown, in the Chinese district of Manchester and good Chinese food shops.
More about the festival can be found at www.chinavista.comexperiencemoonmoon.html and www.educ.uvic.cafacultymroth438CHINAmoon