Today in China is the annual MOON FESTIVAL (中秋节 = Zhōng qiū jié), also called "Mid-Autumn Festival." It always falls on the 8th month (in the Chinese lunar calendar) on the 15th day! Its kinda like Thanksgiving meets Valentines Day! During this time, the moon's orbit is at its lowest angle to the horizon, which makes it seem brighter & larger than any other time of year.
There are MANY stories behind this festival, but most believe it is to celebrate the bountiful HARVEST for the year. China is a very agricultural nation, so it is fitting that there be a festival to honor & celebrate the farmers' hard labor, and the end of their season. Farmers work quite hard to till their fields, plant, harvest & sell their crops. The Moon Festival is a time to give thanks and rest from your labor.
During this time the MOON is full & round, which is a lucky shape in Chinese culture. The round shape means family reunion. Therefore the Moon Festival is a holiday for families to celebrate together in harmony. It is customary to eat MOON CAKES (月饼 = yuè bǐng): which is a large cookie/crust with various fillings (sugar, sesame, walnuts, ham, beans, etc.) and flavored with lotus flowers or rose petals. Here is a recipe to try if you are adventurous, and here are detailed directions too. It is also common to offer round gifts when visiting relatives: melons, pomegranates, apples, grapes, and the like. Kids love the festival, as they get to stay up late eating moon-cakes and hearing legendary tales.
The Moon Festival is also a ROMANTIC time: a chance to gaze at the full moon with the one you love. Typically the weather is dry & warm, with clear skies and a mild breeze. Lovers spend the evening tasting moon-cakes and sipping hot tea or wine. Even for couples who cannot be together, they still seek to spend the night gazing at the moon (at the same time) so it seems like they are together. There is a lot of poetry about the moon & love in Chinese culture.
So tonight we began our own tradition: we made (round) pizza together, and thanked our God for all that He created: the sun, moon, stars and everything in between!
*I will try to post again about a legendary story behind this holiday soon.