Let’s chill and celebrate, The mooncake festival is before us!

Just a few weeks back, many Indians were over the moon when India’s Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft landed on the moon.

The Indian Space Research Organisation’s Chandrayaan-3 mission had placed a lander and rover on the moon’s unexplored southern region, which is said to be significant for its valuable resource of lunar ice.

Chandrayaan-3’s name comes from the Sanskrit word “chandra” for moon, which is derived from “chand”, meaning “to shine”. Chandra is also the name of the Hindu God of the Moon while yaan in Sanskrit means a vehicle.

Now we have detractors saying that Chandrayaan-3 had not landed near the moon’s south pole but only its southern hemisphere. For someone like me, I wouldn’t know the difference.

India’s rover was said to have landed at a latitude of around 69 degrees south. Experts quoted by a Hong Kong newspaper argued that this was only within the moon’s southern hemisphere but not in the polar region, which is “between the latitudes of 88.5 and 90 degrees”.

Let’s chill. Let’s not split hairs today. It’s the mooncake or mid-Autumn festival today (Sept 29, 2023)! It’s a festival for all to cherish, not just the Chinese community. 

Already we’ve seen many entrepreneurs from other communities producing halal mooncakes, which is a positive sign towards greater goodwill among people in Malaysia.

This festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese lunar calendar, which usually falls in September or early October in the Gregorian calendar.

The Mid-Autumn festival is usually associated with romantic legends, the most famous being the mythological story of Chang’e and Houyi. Their love story, though tragic, is often told during the festival. They serve as reminders of their enduring power of love and sacrifice.

Their ancient story starts from a time when it’s said that there were 10 suns that caused much hardship with their searing heat to people on Earth.

Houyi, a skilled archer, could not bear to see such sufferings and decided to shoot down nine of the 10 suns, leaving only one to provide light and warmth to Earth.

His heroic deed and fame reached the heavens. He was rewarded with an elixir of immortality by the Queen Mother of the West.

But Houyi felt the time wasn’t right to be an immortal. He wanted to wait for the right time. So, he didn’t consume the elixir.  

Houyi’s wife, Chang’e, on the other hand, became curious about the elixir. One day, when her husband was away, she decided to consume it to make her immortal.

After drinking the elixir, Chang’e felt herself becoming lighter and floated into the sky. She eventually landed on the moon and became the Goddess of the Moon.

When Houyi returned home and learned what had happened, he was overcome with grief. He gazed longingly at the moon, knowing that his beloved wife was there but forever out of reach.

Therefore, during each annual Mid-Autumn Festival, Houyi would offer her favourite foods and fruits as offerings. And it’s believed that on this night, the starstruck lovers of Chang’e and Houyi can be reunited!

Anyway, the Mooncake Festival also marks the harvest season’s midpoint when the moon is at its brightest and fullest. It is a time to give thanks for the year’s harvest and pray for a bountiful harvest in the coming months.

It’s also a time for family reunions. On this night, when the moon is at its brightest, it’s time for the young (and sometimes old) to parade lanterns of various shapes, sizes and colours; gaze at the moon, eat, drink and be merry, and be grateful for being able to do so.

 Now that we are on the subject of the moon and the sun, it’s also heartening to hear that India had launched its first spacecraft dedicated to studying the outer layers of the sun in early September. India’s spacecraft, Aditya-L1, was launched from Sriharikota, an island off the Bay of Bengal, to head for a parking spot in orbit about 930,000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth. It’s certainly a remarkable feat.

Now this reminds me of an anecdote attributed to a loquacious politician and minister from Malaysia who has since passed on. One day it was said that he was engaging a group of journalists about the country undertaking a mission to the sun.

When asked if this was too hot, the man answered as a matter-of-factly: “We will go at night!”

Jeff Yong, with many years of journalism experience behind him and an eye for the quirky as well, re-lives his passion for writing columns in Weekly Echo after having done so with New Thrill & The Malaysian Post many eons ago.