Today is the day to celebrate “Mid-Autumn Festival” in many of the Asian cultures – a traditional thanksgiving event on the night of August 15th on Chinese calendar. My country does not celebrate it as extensively or extravagantly as our neighbours…
… just some offerings to the Gods to thank for another successful harvest (on the left), some lanterns (most clearly visible on the right), and the moon (in the upper middle).
The moon is an important component of this event. It is said the moon on mid-autumn night is the most beautiful this time of the year, for cultural, astronomical, and meteorological reasons. Cultural, because it falls on or around full moon so it appears like a complete circle to the naked eye… a complete circle represents perfect harmony in many Asian cultures. Astronomically, because it moves across the sky not too high as in winter and too low as in summer, but at optimal height to look up without hurting the neck. And meteorologically, because usually there is less water vapour in the air in autumn and thus, less obstruction in seeing the moon clearly.
Having said all this, we seldom get a clear view of the moon on mid-autumn night in my country – because of an autumnal rain front which continuously hovers over much of our land and typhoons approaching one after another, the mid-autumn sky is usually covered with dark clouds and often raining. In one news, I heard that the statistics show my town only had clear sky on this night five times over the past twenty years… that’s once every four years, on average, like the Olympics!
So, you see, for my people, it is precious to be able to catch even a glimpse the moon on this night, and virtually priceless to catch sight clearly. And as you can tell from the photo above, the moon tonight was hazy and I only had a few minutes to take pictures before it hid behind thick clouds.
An ex-pat I happened to meet tonight thought it quite ironic for us to be celebrating the festival when its most important component is missing three-quarters of the time. And to that I replied that the tradition came from China so we did not get to choose the date. But as I scribble about the night here, I am beginning to see different sides to it.
Maybe we could have arranged the festival to better suit our way of living.
But maybe we chose not to, to understand just how precious it is to have all conditions aligned and pointed toward a clear round moon.
And maybe knowing the rarity, we appreciate its occurrence and savour its momentary beauty much more.
Moreover, maybe we are taught to have a peace of mind at all times, so that we will not be wearing ourselves out constantly awaiting anxiously for its occurrence, and we will have a moment to spare to look up.
Maybe we should not be crying for the moon, but enjoying life as it comes and seizing the day every day.
The aforementioned ex-pat certainly did so, by taking part in the event:
She lit up the candle inside one of the lanterns, and…
… got to take a picture of it with the moon. Great job!
Happy Mid-Autumn Festival to everyone – I am sure a beautiful moon will come tonight to all those with a peace of mind!
Drawing on one of the lanterns: perfect harmony (full moon) comes to the little girl who shows appreciation for what she gets (harvest crop and its product offered to the Gods).
By the way, the festivities were held at this botanical garden… recognize the red parasol in common?