The tradition of eating mooncakes on this festival has a long history in China, yet there are different versions of statements about its origin.
The most common version is that during the reign of Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty, Taizong ordered his ablest general Li Jing to go for a battle against the Turkic clan in north ancient China to suppress their frequent invasions. The 15th day of the 8th month was exactly the day for the general's triumphant return. In order to celebrate his victory, fireworks were set off and music was played in and out of Chang'an City (the capital of the Tang Dynasty), and citizens were happily enjoying a riotous night together with warriors. At that time, a business man, coming from the Tubo Kingdom (the ancient name for Tibet), presented Taizong with a kind of round cakes to celebrate Tang's victory.
Taizong gladly received the magnificently-decorated boxes and took the multi-colored round cakes out of the boxes and handed them out to his officials and generals. From then on, the tradition of eating round mooncakes on the Mid-Autumn Festival was formed.
During Mid-Autumn Festival, hairy crab -- rich in protein and amino acids -- is probably one of most sought-after delicacy among Chinese people. Crabs are ready to lay their eggs around the time of the festival, meaning they are at their tastiest right then. A plate of steamed hairy crabs dressed with ginger and vinegar always forms the highlight of the Mid-Autumn Festival reunion dinner.
It's tradition in China to enjoy osmanthus-flavored cake and wine during Mid-Autumn Festival. They may be preferred because Mid-Autumn Festival is when the osmanthus flowers are in full bloom. Enjoying the sweet-scented osmanthus cake and wine also stands for family reunion and a happy life.
The tradition of eating pumpkin during Mid-Autumn Festival started with poor people living south of the Yangtze River. Legend has it that a long time ago, a girl named Huang Hua who came from a poor family, lived with her gravely ill parents who were unable to feed and clothe themselves. On August 15 on the lunar calendar of one year, she took home two pumpkins and prepared them for her parents, whose health was fully restored after eating the pumpkin. The tradition has been handed down for generations and eating pumpkin on Mid-Autumn Festival night is believed to bring people good health.
The tradition of eating Taro during Mid-Autumn Festival first started during the Qing Dynasty (1636-1912). In Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, the word "taro" has the same pronunciation as "luck is inside." Eating them during the festival is believed to dispel any bad luck and bring good luck and wealth throughout the year.
River Snails are the Mid-Autumn Festival specialty of Guangzhou City. They might look unappetizing and smell unpleasant when raw, but after being cooked with several herbs and spices to drive out the putrid odor, the delicacy is an indispensable food on the Mid-Autumn Festival dinner table for the people in Guangzhou. The festival is the best season to eat snails and eating them is believed to help brighten the eyesight.
In Mandarin, "pear" is homophonous with "separate," both pronounced as "li." For this reason, eating a pear during Mid-Autumn Festival symbolizes the people's wish to avoid separation and implies their desire for reunion.
Eating duck is popular during Mid-Autumn Festival because the taste of the duck is very rich during this season. During the festival, people in Fujian Province have the tradition to cook the duck with a type of taro widely found across the area. The duck is seasoned with osmanthus flowers for the festival dinner table in Jiangsu Province, since osmanthus flowers are in full bloom during the season. In Sichuan Province, people enjoy smoked and baked duck as a popular main course.
In Vietnam, Têt-Trung-Thu (tet-troong-thoo) or the Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the most popular family holidays.
Vietnamese families plan their activities around their children on this special day. In a Vietnamese folklore, parents were working so hard to prepare for the harvest that they left the children playing by themselves. To make up for lost time, parents would use the Mid-Autumn festival as an opportunity to show their love and appreciation for their children.
Appropriately, the Mid-Autumn Festival is also called the Children’s Festival. In the United States, this tradition continues in many Vietnamese-American communities. Trung-Thu activities are often centered around children and education. Parents buy lanterns for their children so that they can participate in a candlelit lantern procession at dawn. Lanterns represent brightness while the procession symbolizes success in school. Vietnamese markets sell a variety of lanterns, but the most popular children’s lantern is the star lantern. Other children’s activities include arts and crafts in which children make face masks and lanterns. Children also perform traditional Vietnamese dances for adults and participate in contests for prizes and scholarships. Unicorn dancers are also very popular in Trung-Thu festivities.
Like the Chinese, Vietnamese parents tell their children fairy tales and serve mooncakes and other special treats under the silvery moon. A favorite folklore is about a carp that wanted to become a dragon. The carp worked and worked and eventually transformed itself into a dragon. This is the story behind the mythical symbol, Cá hóa Rông. Parents use this story to encourage their children to work hard so that they can become whatever they want to be.
像中國人一樣，越南家長在中秋月圓之時，也會準備好月餅與各色點心，邊欣賞皎潔的月色，邊給孩子們講故事。越南有個家喻戶曉的傳說，說的是一條想要變成龍的鯉魚，通過自己不懈的努力，最終得償所愿。這也是越南神話意象“魚化龍”（Cá hóa Rông）的由來。家長們用這個故事激勵孩子們刻苦學習，像鯉魚“躍龍門”一樣，成為自己想要成為的人。
There’s also a story about how the Moon Lady ascended to the moon. A man named Chu Coi found a lucky tree that had special healing powers. Because this tree was sacred, people were forbidden to urinate at the foot of this tree. Unfortunately, Chu Coi’s wife, Chi Hang forgot the rule and urinated on the tree. On day, while she was sitting on the tree’s branch, the tree started to grow and grow. Eventually, it reached the moon, Since then, Chi Hang lived on the moon for the rest of her life as a punishment for desecrating the sacred tree.
Chusok, also known as the Korean Thanksgiving or Mid-Autumn Festival, is one of the most celebrated Korean holidays. Held on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, Chusok is often called a great day in the middle of August. It occurs during the harvest season. Thus, Korean families take this time to thank their ancestors for providing them with rice and fruits. Chusok will be held on September 8, 2014. The celebration starts on the night before Chusok and ends on the day after the holiday. Thus, many Korean families take three days off from work to get together with family and friends.
The celebration starts with a family get-together at which rice cakes called "Songphyun" are served. These special rice cakes are made of rice, beans, sesame seeds, and chestnuts. Then the family pays respect to ancestors by visiting their tombs and offering them rice and fruits. In the evening, children wear their favorite hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) and dance under the bright moon in a large circle. They play games and sing songs. Like the American Thanksgiving, Chusok is the time to celebrate the family and give thanks for their blessings.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is named Tsukimi (月見) or Otsukimi (literally means moon-viewing) in Japan. Celebrations of the festival take place on the 15th day of the eight month of the traditional Japanese Lunisor calendar (usually takes place in September of the solar calendar).
The Tsukimi custom or moon-viewing custom originated from the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival. Custom of viewing the moon and holding festival parties appeared over 1000 years ago when tradition of the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival was introduced to Japan.
Unlike the Chinese, who eat mooncakes to celebrate the festival, the Japanese usually eat eating rice dumplings called Tsukimi dango. The tradition is now so popular in Japan that some people repeat the activities for several evenings following the appearance of the full moon during the eighth lunisolar month.