The Origins and Practices of the August Moon Festival/Mid-Harvest Festival

August Moon Festival/Mid-Harvest Festival - August 11 - October 13, 2019

The August Moon festival is an East Asian cultural celebration. Though this celebration started in China, many people who are ethnically Taiwanese, Japanese, South Korean, Malaysian, Vietnamese, and Filipino also celebrate it. This year, the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association of New England (CCBA) is organizing the 50th August Moon Festival in Boston.

The August Moon festival is the East Asian community in Boston’s version of the mid-autumn festival. The mid-autumn festival often happens in September, and will occur on September 13 this year. It’s not clear why the Boston area appears to be the only one that celebrates this festival in August. One possible explanation is that this festival contains many activities for kids. Moving the festival to August allows them to participate more since school is out.

This festival traces back to 771 BCE. The festival celebrated the harvest of rice and wheat on the night of the full moon. Moon worship has always been an important part of East Asian cultures. One story about the origin of this festival is that the Chinese emperors in the Zhou dynasty (1045 – 221 BCE) worshiped the moon in autumn. They did this so that the next year’s harvest would be extra abundant.

This festival is similar to American Thanksgiving. The main ideas this festival celebrates are gathering of friends and family, giving thanks, and prayers for the future. Mooncakes are a standard dessert for this holiday. A mooncake is a round dessert often filled with lotus bean paste and an egg yolk (which represents the moon). There are some variations in how the mooncake is cooked or displayed. Chinese and Vietnamese moon cakes often are branded with characters. South Korean mooncakes are made with rice flour and steamed over pine needles. Japanese mooncakes are sphere shaped and look like tiny moons.

Photo of a mooncake with a Chinese character stamped on top.
Photo of a mooncake, with a green paste and an egg yolk center. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Kake. Available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/kake_pugh/4997376922

In addition to consuming mooncakes, some communities celebrate by lighting paper lanterns. Another tradition is dancing lion and dragon dances for good luck. The August Moon festivals in Boston and Quincy will have music, martial arts, arts & crafts, food trucks, and more. The festival in Boston will occur on Sunday, August 11 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Find more details about the Boston festival here. The Quincy August Moon festival will take place on Sunday, August 18 from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Find more detailed information on the Quincy August moon festival here.

Learn more about the festival, and share it with your child with these items from our collections:

The Shadow in the Moon

The Legends of the Mid-Autumn Festival

Thanking the Moon

If there's a particular celebration you or someone you know participates in that we missed, let us know by leaving a comment on this post. Or, if you think we got something wrong, please also comment and let us know. We try to be as accurate as possible, but if there's a mistake, we want to correct it.

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