Made in Macao | Mid-Autumn Festival taboos

Jenny Lao-Phillips

Friday the 13th is Black Friday, but this coming Black Friday should be a little bit less “black” because it is also the Mid-Autumn Festival, “Chong Chao,” one of the most celebrated festivals in Chinese culture, filled with lights and lanterns.
I have written a lot about the traditions of Mid- Autumn Festival over the years. We all know of the story of Chang-O, the lady who drank the immortal elixir and floated up to the moon; or the story of Wu-Kong, who was doomed to chop down the forever-regenerating giant laurel tree on the moon. At the center of all these legends is the moon. Therefore, the customs and traditions of the festival all revolve around the moon, and the main practice during the festival is moon appreciation.
Even now, families gather outdoors to eat moon cake, play with lanterns and watch the moon. Although playing with lanterns has become an important practice for children now, the use of lanterns during Chong Chao began for practical reasons. Before electricity and street lamps, it was, of course, dark at night. So families would bring lanterns with them when they had picnics under the moon, and over the years, lanterns became a must-have during the festival.
Anyway, we know a lot about what the festival is about and what to do on Chong Chao, however, lately I have realized that there are also a few taboos. An interesting one is that although moon worship is practiced everywhere in China on Chong Chao, in some places, males are forbidden from participating in the offering. It was believed that the moon represents the feminine and that the offering is for the moon goddess Chang-O. So unlike any other day, where the male head of the family is always the one to lead important rituals, Chong Chao is the one day females take the lead and offer incense and round food to the moon. Perhaps some intelligent lady came up with the argument of the feminine and took over the rituals on one of our most important festivals. There is also a belief that people who have just experienced a break-up should not celebrate the festival, especially men, who are not even supposed to go out and watch the moon, for it may bring further bad luck – another practice that I believe was started by women.
Although appreciating the moon is one of the most important Chong Chao customs, there are certain people who should not go out for moon appreciation during the festival. First, there are guys who have just broken up with their
girlfriends. Then, it is also said that people who are sick, especially someone who has just had a miscarriage, must not go moon gazing, not even from their window in the comfort of one’s own home. It is also bad luck for people who are facing certain misfortunes to appreciate the moon on Chong Chao, such as those who have just been fired or been burnt by the stock market. Also, ladies should not have hair over their forehead, so those with bangs will need a hair band to go moon gazing. There is not much explanation for these taboos, but I guess it has something to do with the belief that the moon is “yin” (with negative energy), and negative plus negative does not a positive make.
So while Chong Chao is a day to celebrate the moon with one’s family, it is better for those who have just lost girlfriends, money or jobs to avoid the moon during the festival to prevent further bad luck. Otherwise, have some moon cake and play with some lanterns under the moon, and have a happy Mid-Autumn Festival this Friday.

Categories Opinion