The Moon Festival, also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival or the Lantern Festival, takes place each year on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month. This is the date of the Autumn Equinox, when the moon is at its farthest point from the earth and hence appears bright and completely round.
Traditionally the Moon Festival marks the end of the summer harvest. To the farmers of China, the festival is a celebration of thankfulness for heaven's bounty. It has been celebrated by the Chinese people since at least the first century.
Various legends are associated with moon viewing. One of the most popular concerns Chang-0, the wife of Hou-I, the Divine Archer. The legend tells of Hou-I who, having shot down nine out of ten suns that were causing havoc on earth, was rewarded by the goddess Xiwangmu with the herb of immortality. However, the beautiful and vain Chang-0 Found and ate the herb herself. Realizing that her husband would be angry, she fled to the moon where she coughed up the herb that turned into the Jade Rabbit, another mythical figure associated with immortality.
Today, children look for Chang-O and the Jade Rabbit in the shadows visible on the moon's surface. On the night of the Festival they carry paper lanterns in the shape of rabbits, phoenixes, fish and other auspicious animals. The Moon Festival is a time of gathering for family and friends, and moon cakes filled with ground lotus and sesame seeds are given as gifts.