Mid-Autumn Festival, often known as Moon Festival, is one of China's most important holidays. It falls on the 15th day of the 8th month in the lunar calendar – usually in late September or early October, and this year on September 24th, 2018. Mid-Autumn Festival is most closely analogous to Thanksgiving in that the celebration serves to show gratitude for the world around you, from the nature you live in, to the family and friends you surround yourself with. Here is how to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival, even as a college student (whose problem sets and essays don't deserve all that gratitude).

Learn the Legends

There are a couple different stories regarding Mid-Autumn Festival, but the most famous story is the one of Hou Yi and Chang E. Legend has it that Hou Yi, a famous archer, shot 9/10 suns out of the sky and earned an elixir of immortality for saving the kingdom from heat. He gives it to Chang E to keep safe, but someone tries to steal it from her, so she drinks it herself instead. She becomes a goddess and flies away from Earth, but her love for Hou Yi takes her to the moon, the closest place in the heavens. Hou Yi finds out what happened and sacrifices to the moon to honor his wife. Appreciate the moon this holiday and think of Chang E, or read up on some other interesting legends about the moon.

Reunite with Family and Friends

When the moon is round, we gather 'round. The Chinese word for reunion (团圆,pronounced tuányuán) literally contains the word for round. Mid-Autumn Festival is traditionally a time to gather relatives and old friends from all corners of the country. Even if you can't fly halfway across the world to meet up with your great uncle, invite some friends over to your dorm or call your parents and celebrate the roundness of the moon. 

Have a Festive Meal

My grandparents told me that, growing up, they hosted relatives from all over China and ate a massive family-style dinner, complete with nearly 20 different dishes filled with different meats, vegetables, and spices. While those kinds of meals aren't really feasible on a college budget, have yourself a feast with some friends in the dining hall or go out for a slightly less extensive supper that's at least higher quality than the d-hall.

Appreciate the Moon

This custom is really as simple as it sounds: just reflect on how nice the full moon is. So full and moony! So reflective! So crater-y! But really, take some time to sit outside with friends, relax for once, and gaze on as the moon lights up the night sky.

Eat Mooncake!

hot dog, bread
Becky Hughes

Mooncake is a traditional dessert eaten mostly during Mid-Autumn Festival while looking at the moon. It has a thin crust engraved with delicate designs or Chinese characters and is often filled with some kind of sweetened paste with flavors such as lotus, red date, red bean, mung bean, white bean, green tea, etc. Some mooncakes have one or more dried egg yolks in the center to symbolize wealth and prosperity. Legend has it that, during the Yuan dynasty, messages were hidden in mooncakes to plot the successful overthrow of the Mongol empire. That being said, don't try to overthrow your RA or anything by passing mooncakes door to door. Just head to Chinatown or an Asian market to buy a pack of regular or miniature mooncakes and enjoy in (hopefully) peace and freedom.

I hope this guide on how to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival was helpful. Now go find some friends to watch the moon with, and give thanks for the piles of homework surrounding you.