Monday, September 15, 2008


Happy belated Middle Autumn Festival! It feels odd to type that when true autumn is still about a week off (and by "true" I mean "solar", thus inflicting upon this column a cultural bias). And even on the lunar calendar, fall can hardly be described as nearing its midpoint. As a matter of fact, there's something I don't understand regarding the names of notable dates. But first, some facts: the Mid-Autumn Festival (or Moon Festival, or Mooncake Festival, depending on your colloquialism) is a harvest celebration of Chinese ancestry, prevalent in cultures sharing a Chinese history or cultural influence: Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam, San Francisco, etc. It also has holiday cousins throughout east and southeast Asia, where plenty of the cultures are similarly, albeit sometimes distantly, related: Tsukimi, the moon-viewing festival in Japan; or Chuseok, the good harvest celebration in Korea, to name but two. No matter how distantly related, the festival is in honor of the beginning of the third lunar season, falling on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month (counting from February this year). The fifteenth lunar day is always the full moon, and is celebrated in one way or another every month. The Mid-Autumn Festival and its cousins are, like similar western harvest festivals, about feasts and ancestors. The holiday was last night, incidentally: September fourteenth; therefore this update is "belated". In Vietnamese the holiday is called Tết Trung Thu, which means "festival of middle autumn". So why the "middle"? I'm picking bones with my own native tongue too, frankly--a native tongue that itself dubs the winter solstice--that shortest day of the year--"midwinter", even though it actually marks the very first day of that final season in exactly the same way "mid-autumn" marks the first day of the third. What gives? [Cavin]

Then, a 0 sided conversation ensued...

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