Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mid Autumn Moon party

For years now I have wanted to celebrate the Chinese mid autumn moon festival, after first reading about it on Waverly Fitzgerald's wonderful site of seasonal holiday lore, School of the Seasons. It is considered a women's festival in China, and more of a family tradition in other parts of Asia, but the main theme throughout is that people gather outside during the full moon closest to the autumn equinox and stay up late enjoying themselves while gazing at the moon. In China, it is considered the start of the yin part of the year, when the dark hours exceed the light. Women traditional gather for "moon viewing parties" and stay up late moon gazing, drinking tea and wine, and eating fruits and sweets that symbolize the moon: melons, pears, peaches, grapes and pomegranates. It is also traditional to give gifts of "moon cakes" in beautifully decorated tins to guests. They are round cakes (round to symbolize the full moon) filled with sweet bean pastes and often, a boiled egg in the center. They are special treats and Asian people I have known sometimes refer to this as the "mooncake" festival.

There are many versions of the legend about the Chinese moon goddess, Chang-o, but the basic story goes that this goddess had stolen the elixer of life from her husband, who rules the sun, and they live separately across the heavens now. Often there is a tale that a rabbit lives in the moon with the goddess, and mixes the elixer of life with a mortar and pestle. So rabbits with a mortar and pestle are also symbols for this festival.

I am fortunate in that I have three very good friends that are as interested in other cultures as I am. I decided to plan a small party for us at this full moon, and they were all happy and excited to come. Here are some of the decorations and festivities that ocurred on Sunday night, under the full moon:

This was the moon altar I built outside on our patio. The party took place outside, of course.

There were large platters of fruit. The fruit salad pictured above is held in a hollowed-out honeydew melon that I carved into a lotus shape.

Although I told the ladies not to bring anything, all three brought bottles of wine. There was even a gallon jug of homemade muscadine wine given by one friend's grandparents. Obviously, we were not going to have any lack of alcohol!

in the hammock, after lots of wine

I could not find authentic moon cakes in our town. That was a disappointment. One nice lady at our only asian market said that they used to carry them, but that no one ever bought them so they stopped. I didn't check until the last minute so I had no time to order any. This meant that I had to get creative.  I decided to go with the closest traditional sweet we have here in South Carolina. Check out my "down south" version:

I packaged them in homemade origami boxes I made out of stiff origami paper. These made me laugh out loud when I put them together!  I tied them closed with string and sent them home with the ladies as they were leaving. I hope they got a kick out of them too!!

All four of us had a wonderful time. We laughed, we drank, we stayed outside past midnight. We gazed at the moon (it was beautiful!) and enjoyed each others company.  I hadn't laughed that much in months!  We have decided that this will be a new annual tradition for us.

Happy Mid Autumn Moon, everyone!


  1. Oh...I LOVE THE FULL MOON, and I SO LOVE THE AUTUMN MOON FESTIVAL TOO! No kidding, there is just something SO magical about it! If I lived in SC, I would have come to your magical moon party in a heartbeat! What a fabulous ideas and kudos to you for hosting it! :o)

  2. If you lived in SC, you would be invited! Thank you so much for the kind words.....I had a lot of fun with it!

    If you feel like a SC trip next year, you are invited! We've decided it's going to be an annual thing. :)