On the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar, the moon is the roundest, brightest and fullest. It also marks the harvest season, when people reap the fruits of their labor and enjoy a moment of rest and contentment.
What better time to spend the joy and satisfaction of life with one's family and loved ones? Thus comes the Moon (or mid-autumn) Festival, an occasion second in importance only to the Lunar New Year celebration for Chinese and many other Asian countries.
Like Thanksgiving for Americans, the Mid-Autumn Festival is a holiday for family members to get together wherever and whenever possible. On that day, sons and daughters bring their family members to their parents' house for a reunion.
The round shape of the moon symbolizes family reunions. Even for those who cannot join the reunion, the moon helps to take away the distance between them and their families. What a comforting thought it is for travelers to raise their heads and gaze at the same moon miles away from home, knowing that they are sharing the same sight with their families.
As every Chinese holiday is accompanied by special food and many legends, the Moon Festival is no exception. People eat moon cakes, a kind of pastry with various fillings -- sesame, walnut, the yolk of preserved eggs, ham, lotus seed paste, green tea, pineapple and other nuts and fruits.
The sweetness of the moon cakes calls for good tea. And, of course, we can always count on the poets to drink to the moon and add more richness to the tradition. In Chinese myths, on the moon lives the fairy Chang E, a wood cutter named Wu Gang and a jade rabbit which is Chang E's pet.
Chang E flew to the moon eons ago, after swallowing both doses of a secret elixir her husband brought home to share with her. Wu Gang, the Chinese Sisyphus, is doomed to chop forever the osmanthus tree that grows back with every cut it receives.
To learn more about these legends, join the celebration to this year's Mid-Autumn Festival at DePauw University's McKim Observatory from 8 to 10 p.m. today. All are invited.