中秋节有悠久的历史,和其它传统节日一样,也是慢慢发展形成的,古代帝王有春天祭日,秋天祭月的礼制,早在《周礼》一书中,已有“中秋”一词的记载。后来贵族和文人学士也仿效起来,在中秋时节,对着天上又亮又圆一轮皓月,观赏祭拜,寄托情怀,这种习俗就这样传到民间,形成一个传统的活动,一直到了唐代,这种祭月的风俗更为人们重视,中秋节才成为固定的节日,《唐书·太宗记》记载有“八月十五中秋节”,这个节日盛行于宋朝,至明清时,已与元旦齐名,成为我国的主要节日之一。
中秋节的传说是非常丰富的,嫦娥奔月,吴刚伐桂,玉兔捣药之类的神话故事流传甚广。
  中秋传说之一——嫦娥奔月

  相传,远古时候天上有十日同时出现,晒得庄稼枯死,民不聊生,一个名叫后羿的英雄,力大无穷,他同情受苦的百姓,登上昆仑山顶,运足神力,拉开神弓,一气射下九个多太阳,并严令最后一个太阳按时起落,为民造福。

  后羿因此受到百姓的尊敬和爱戴,后羿娶了个美丽善良的妻子,名叫嫦娥。后羿除传艺狩猎外,终日和妻子在一起,人们都羡慕这对郎才女貌的恩爱夫妻。

  不少志士慕名前来投师学艺,心术不正的蓬蒙也混了进来。

  一天,后羿到昆仑山访友求道,巧遇由此经过的王母娘娘,便向王母求得一包不死药。据说,服下此药,能即刻升天成仙。然而,后羿舍不得撇下妻子,只好暂时把不死药交给嫦娥珍藏。嫦娥将药藏进梳妆台的百宝匣里,不料被小人蓬蒙看见了,他想偷吃不死药自己成仙。

  三天后,后羿率众徒外出狩猎,心怀鬼胎的蓬蒙假装生病,留了下来。待后羿率众人走后不久,蓬蒙手持宝剑闯入内宅后院,威逼嫦娥交出不死药。嫦娥知道自己不是蓬蒙的对手,危急之时她当机立断,转身打开百宝匣,拿出不死药一口吞了下去。嫦娥吞下药,身子立时飘离地面、冲出窗口,向天上飞去。由于嫦娥牵挂着丈夫,便飞落到离人间最近的月亮上成了仙。

  傍晚,后羿回到家,侍女们哭诉了白天发生的事。后羿既惊又怒,抽剑去杀恶徒,蓬蒙早逃走了,后羿气得捶胸顿足,悲痛欲绝,仰望着夜空呼唤爱妻的名字,这时他惊奇地发现,今天的月亮格外皎洁明亮,而且有个晃动的身影酷似嫦娥。他拼命朝月亮追去,可是他追三步,月亮退三步,他退三步,月亮进三步,无论怎样也追不到跟前。

  后羿无可奈何,又思念妻子,只好派人到嫦娥喜爱的后花园里,摆上香案,放上她平时最爱吃的蜜食鲜果,遥祭在月宫里眷恋着自己的嫦娥。百姓们闻知嫦娥奔月成仙的消息后,纷纷在月下摆设香案,向善良的嫦娥祈求吉祥平安。

  从此,中秋节拜月的风俗在民间传开了。

  中秋传说之二——吴刚折桂

  关于中秋节还有一个传说:相传月亮上的广寒宫前的桂树生长繁茂,有五百多丈高,下边有一个人常在砍伐它,但是每次砍下去之后,被砍的地方又立即合拢了。几千年来,就这样随砍随合,这棵桂树永远也不能被砍光。据说这个砍树的人名叫吴刚,是汉朝西河人,曾跟随仙人修道,到了天界,但是他犯了错误,仙人就把他贬谪到月宫,日日做这种徒劳无功的苦差使,以示惩处。李白诗中有“欲斫月中桂,持为寒者薪”的记载。


  中秋传说之三——朱元璋与月饼起义

  中秋节吃月饼相传始于元代。当时,中原广大人民不堪忍受元朝统治阶级的残酷统治,纷纷起义抗元。朱元璋联合各路反抗力量准备起义。但朝庭官兵搜查的十分严密,传递消息十分困难。军师刘伯温便想出一计策,命令属下把藏有“八月十五夜起义”的纸条藏入饼子里面,再派人分头传送到各地起义军中,通知他们在八月十五日晚上起义响应。到了起义的那天,各路义军一齐响应,起义军如星火燎原。

  很快,徐达就攻下元大都,起义成功了。消息传来,朱元璋高兴得连忙传下口谕,在即将来临的中秋节,让全体将士与民同乐,并将当年起兵时以秘密传递信息的“月饼”,作为节令糕点赏赐群臣。此后,“月饼”制作越发精细,品种更多,大者如圆盘,成为馈赠的佳品。以后中秋节吃月饼的习俗便在民间流传开来。

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 农历八月十五日,是我国传统的中秋节,也是我国仅次于春节的第二大传统节日 。八月十五恰在秋季的中间,故谓之中秋节。我国古历法把处在秋季中间的八月, 称谓“仲秋”, 所以中秋节又叫“仲秋节”。

  中秋之夜,月色皎洁,古人把圆月视为团圆的象征,因此,又称八月十五为“团圆 节”。古往今来,人们常用“月圆”、“月缺”来形容“悲欢离合”,客居他乡的游子,更 是以月来寄托深情。唐代诗人李白的“举头望明月,低头思 故乡”,杜甫的“露从今夜白,月是故乡明”,宋代王安石的“春风又绿江南岸,明月何时照 我还”等诗句,都是千古绝唱。

  中秋节是个古老的节日,祭月赏月是节日的重要习俗。古代帝王有春天祭日,秋天祭月的社制,民家也有中秋祭月之风,到了后 来赏月重于祭月,严肃的祭祀变成了轻松的 欢娱。中秋赏月的风俗在唐代极盛,许多诗 人的名篇中都有咏月的诗句,宋代、明代、清代宫廷和民间的拜月赏月活动更具规模。我国各地至今遗存着许多“拜月坛”、“拜月亭”、“望月楼”的古迹。北京的“月坛”就是明嘉靖年 间为皇家祭月修造的。 每当中秋月亮升起,于露天设案,将月饼、石榴、枣子等瓜果供于桌案上,拜月后,全家人围桌而坐,边吃边谈,共赏明月。现在,祭月拜月活动已被规模 盛大、多彩多姿的群众赏月游乐活动所替代。

  吃月饼是节日的另一习俗,月饼象征着团圆。月饼的制作从唐代以后越来越考 究。苏东坡有诗写道:“小饼如嚼月,中有酥和饴”,清朝杨光辅写道:“月饼饱装桃肉馅,雪糕甜砌蔗糖霜”。看来当时 的月饼和现在已颇为相近了。

  根据史籍的记载,“中秋”一词最早出现在《周礼》一书中。到魏晋时,有“谕尚书镇牛淆,中秋夕与左右微服泛江”的记载。直到唐朝初年,中秋节才成为固定的节日。《唐书·太宗记》记载有“八月十五中秋节”。中秋节的盛行始于宋朝,至明清时,已与元旦齐名,成为我国的主要节日之一。这也是我国仅次于春节的第二大传统节日。

  西湖游览志余》中说:“八月十五谓中秋,民间以月饼相送,取团圆之意”。《帝京景物略》中也说:“八月十五祭月,其饼必圆,分瓜必牙错,瓣刻如莲花。……其有妇归宁者,是日必返夫家,曰团圆节。中秋晚上,我国大部分地区还有烙“团圆”的习俗,即烙一种象征团圆、类似月饼的小饼子,饼内包糖、芝麻、桂花和蔬菜等,外压月亮、桂树、兔子等图案。祭月之后,由家中长者将饼按人数分切成块,每人一块,如有人不在家即为其留下一份,表示合家团圆。

  中秋节时,云稀雾少,月光皎洁明亮,民间除了要举行赏月、祭月、吃月饼祝福团圆等一系列活动,有些地方还有舞草龙,砌宝塔等活动。除月饼外,各种时令鲜果干果也是中秋夜的美食。

  中秋节起源的另一个说法是:农历八月十五这一天恰好是稻子成熟的时刻,各家都拜土地神。中秋可能就是秋报的遗俗。

 有英文版的没:)

 Mid-Autumn Legend-the moon fairylady
Many years ago, there was a king in China. He was a brave man who did lots of belifits to the people. He admired a beautiful girl and made her stay in the palace so that he could see her whenever he wanted. But, the girl did not like the frightful figure of the king. She seldomly spoke a word in the palace. Each time the king went to her place, he used to show her some treasures and brought some gifts to the girl in order to make her smile and speak.
On every full moon, the girl would burned incenses and wax candles to worship the moon. People believed that there was a god lived in the moon that made the moon shine. Girls who wanted to be a beauty and have a handsome husband should worship the moon.
One day, the full moon of the eighth month, the king brought three herbs pills to show her.

"This is from the priest of the palace. If I eat them up, I can live forever." He exclaimed.
This was the first time the girl stuffs he brought.
He continued,"If you and I both take one, we will both live forever. No one can take you away from me!"

Because the king afraid of the pills would have side effects. He forced the girl to take the pill first. If nothing wrong with her after taking the pill, he would take it immediately. However, the girl recognized that if she took all three of them, the king would left her eventually. Therefore, the first time, she spoke to the king,"Let me have a look of the pills first. Otherwise, I will not try at all."

The king surprisingly the girl talked to him. So, he handed the pills to the girl. She did not say anything but eat all of them. The king was extremely angry. He wanted to kill her.
At this moment, the girl started to fly. She could fly because of the intake of the pills. The king could not catch her, but watched her flew toward the moon and disappeared.

After that, people believed that there was a beautiful girl stay in the moon with a little old man and a bunny. The old man was believed to be the god inside the moon and the bunny was his pet. Day after day, Chinese believed that there were people lived in the moon. Their movement made the dark spot when we looked up to the moon. People used to worship the girl to glorify her chastity. So, on every full moon of the mid-Autumn became a festival in order to memorize her.

Moon in Chinese Celestial Cosmology


The choice of the festival's theme -- celebrating the glories and mysteries of the moon -- was a natural. Along with the sun, the moon has long been an object of human curiosity and worship. "It is probable that sun and moon were early held to be deities and that they were the first visible objects of worship," according to the book "Sketches of the History of Man." To the most ancient ancestors of the Chinese, the sun and the moon were considered the "chief objects of veneration," according to records dating to the Han dynasty emperor Wu Di (157-87 B.C.).
In ancient Asian mythology, there is a strong relationship between the moon and water. The moon is said to regulate reservoirs and supplies of water. There is a suggestion that the moon produces fertility and freshness in the soil. The moon's role in bountiful harvests is widely recognized during autumns around the world.
In Chinese celestial cosmology, the moon represents the female principle, or yin. During ancient autumn Moon Festivals, women took center stage because the moon is considered feminine. Only women took part in Moon Festival rituals on the night of the full moon. Altars would be set up in households, and when the full moon appeared, women would make offerings of incense, candles, fruit, flowers, and mooncakes.
The enduring legend of the Moon Goddess, Chang O (Chang-E in other transliterations), reflects the feminine principle of yin, as opposed to the masculine principle of yang, which is symbolized by the sun.

 

Mid-Autumn Festival Legends
1. The Lady - Chang Er
It's said that in the old old days, the earth once had ten suns circling over it. Each day the suns' mother took one sun to illuminate the earth. But one day all ten suns appeared together, scorching the earth with their heat. The Emperor of Heaven ordered a strong archer Hou Yi to save the earth. He succeeded in shooting down nine of the suns. One day, Hou Yi stole the elixir of life from a goddess. However his beautiful wife Chang Er drank the elixir of life in order to save the people from her husband's tyrannical rule. After drinking it, she found herself floating and flew to the moon. Hou Yi loved his divinely beautiful wife so much, he didn't shoot down the moon.
Another version of the story is that Hou Yi built a beautiful jade palace for the Goddess of the Western Heaven. The Goddess was very happy and she gave Hou Yi a special pill that contained elixir of life and he could use it after he had accomplished certain things. However, Chang Er took it without telling her husband. The Goddess of the Western Heaven was very angry and Chang Er was sent to the moon forever.



 

2. The Man - Wu Kang
Wu Kang was a shiftless fellow who changed apprenticeships all the time. One day he decided that he wanted to be an immortal. Wu Kang then went to live in the mountains where he importuned an immortal to teach him. First the immortal taught him about the herbs used to cure sickness, but after three days his characteristic restlessness returned and he asked the immortal to teach him something else. So the immortal decided to teach him chess. But after a short while Wu Kang was not interested any more. Then Wu Kang was given the books of immortality to study. Of course, Wu Kang became bored within a few days, and asked if they could travel to some new and exciting place. Angered with Wu Kang's impatience, the master banished Wu Kang to the Moon Palace telling him that he must cut down a huge cassia tree before he could return to earth. Though Wu Kang chopped day and night, the magical tree restored itself with each blow, and thus he is up there chopping still.

 

 

3. The Hare - Jade Rabbit
In this legend, three fairy sages transformed themselves into pitiful old men and begged for something to eat from a fox, a monkey and a rabbit. The fox and the monkey both had food to give to the old men, but the rabbit, empty-handed, offered his own flesh instead, jumping into a blazing fire to cook himself. The sages were so touched by the rabbit's sacrifice that they let him live in the Moon Palace where he became the "Jade Rabbit." 
 


During the Yuan dynasty (A.D.1280-1368) China was ruled by the Mongolian people. Leaders from the preceding Sung dynasty (A.D.960-1280) were unhappy to live under foreign rule. They decided to coordinate a rebellion without it being discovered. The leaders of the rebellion, knowing that the Moon Festival was drawing near, ordered the making of special cakes. Inside each moon cake was a message with the outline of the attack. Because it's a Han (the main clan before the Mongolian took over) cake, the Mongolian people are not interested. On the night of the Moon Festival, the rebels successfully attacked and overthrew the government. What followed was the establishment of the Ming dynasty (A.D. 1368-1644). Today, moon cakes are eaten to commemorate this legend.

Moon cake history

 

What's moon cake like? 

Traditional moon cakes are round pastries filled with lotus seed paste with one to four egg yolks, weight about 180 grams each. The more egg yolks in the moon cake, the more expensive it is and more prestigious when present them as presents to relatives. You can buy mooncake one by one though shops always sell their mooncakes in a tin box of 4.

Modern moon cakes - modern bakers are trying to be different. In Hong Kong, you can find dozens varieties of moon cake with nuts or ham, with white lotus seed paste, red bean paste, green bean paste, fruit or coffee flavor. About 10 years ago, a baker called Tai Pan introduced a new white stretchy pastry for their moon cake. They called it "Snowy moon cake" which is very different from the traditional baked, slightly crumbly pastry. It's certainly more popular with the younger generation, though the older generation will look at it and say, "Not traditional!". Then we have chocolate mooncakes, ice cream mooncakes from Haagen Dazs.

Packaging - Besides new ingredients in the moon cakes, you have more choices of sizes and packaging these days. There are mini-mooncakes for those who would like to watch their weight but still want to be traditional and have a moon cake on the Mid-Autumn Festival day. Mini-moon-cake often comes in a tin box or cardboard box of 6 or 8. Other layout like "7-star around the moon" which means 7 mini or full size moon cakes surrounding a standard full size moon cake in the middle in a round tin. It's ideal as gift for your mother-in-law but it costs a lot more (8 mooncakes!)

In 2008, the traditional moon-cake-bakers challenge the modern bakers with new packagings. Nice heavy wooden box with fancy carving decoration or various cartoon character like Thomas the Tank Engine or Doraemon theme boxes with games/toys are available.

 

 

When do we eat moon cakes?
The answer is: any time you like. Typically when Dragon Boat Festival is over, you will start to see advertisement everywhere about moon cakes, which means you can start to buy moon cakes! 

Eat it any time you like. You don't have to save it till festival night. But after the festival, everybody is tired of it and no one would want to eat it.

How much are the moon cakes?
I must say moon cakes are expensive because:

you have no choice if you want to be traditional or

you HAVE-TO because you have very traditional parents-in-laws or relatives AND

it's the bakers' once a year's chance to make some money.

 楼上的文章果然有英文翻译。。。。

 

The legend of the Mid-Autumn Festival

Mooncakes are to Mid-Autumn Festival what mince pies are to Christmas. The seasonal round cakes traditionally have a sweet filling of lotus seed paste or red bean paste and often have one or more salted duck eggs in the center to represent the moon. And the moon is what this celebration is all about. Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the 8th month, it is the time when the moon is said to be at its brightest and fullest. This year the festival falls on October 1.   

There are two legends which claim to explain the tradition of eating mooncakes. One Tang Dynasty myth holds that the Earth once had 10 suns circling it. One day all 10 suns appeared at once, scorching the planet with their heat. It was thanks to a skillful archer named Hou Yi that the Earth was saved. He shot down all but one of the suns. As his reward, the Heavenly Queen Mother gave Hou Yi the Elixir of Immortality, but she warned him that he must use it wisely. Hou Yi ignored her advice and, corrupted by fame and fortune, became a tyrannical leader. Chang-Er, his beautiful wife, could no longer stand by and watch him abuse his power so she stole his Elixir and fled to the moon to escape his angry wrath. And thus began the legend of the beautiful woman in the moon, the Moon Fairy.   

The second legend has it that during the Yuan Dynasty, an underground group led by Zhu Yuan Zang was determined to rid the country of Mongolian dominance. The moon cake was created to carry a secret message. When the cake was opened and the message read, an uprising was unleashed which successfully routed the Mongolians. It happened at the time of the full moon, which, some say, explains why mooncakes are eaten at this time.   

Mooncakes are usually stamped with Chinese characters indicating the name of the bakery and the type of filling used. Some bakeries will even stamp them with your family name so that you can give personalised ones to friends and family. They are usually presented in boxes of four which indicate the four phases of the moon. Traditional mooncakes are made with melted lard, but today vegetable oil is more often used in the interests of health.   

Mooncakes are not for the diet-conscious as they are loaded with calories. The best way to wash down one of these sticky cakes is with a cup of Chinese tea, especially Jasmine or Chrysanthemum tea, which aids the digestion.  

Legend of Mid-Autumn Festival

 There are many beautiful legends about the moon in China. The most popular one tells how a goddess named Chang'er ascended to the moon.

A long, long time ago, a terrible drought plagued the earth. Ten suns burned fiercely in the sky like smoldering volcanoes. The trees and grass were scorched. The land was cracked and parched, and rivers were dried. Many people died of hunger and thirst.

The King of Heaven sent Hou Yi down to the earth to help. When Hou Yi arrived, he took out his red bow and white arrows and shot down nine suns one after another. The weather immediately turned cooler. Heavy rains filled the rivers with fresh water and the grass and trees turned green. Life was restored and humanity was saved.

One day, a charming young woman Chang'er made her way home from a stream, holding a bamboo container. A young man came forward, asking for a drink. When she saw the red bow and white arrows hanging round his belt, Chang'er realized that he was their savior, Hou Yi. Inviting him to drink, Chang'er plucked a beautiful flower and gave it to him as a token of respect. Hou Yi, in turn, selected a beautiful silver fox fur as his gift for her. This meeting kindled the spark of their love. And soon after that, they got married.

A mortal's life is limited, of course. So in order to enjoy his happy life with Chang'er forever, Hou Yi decided to look for an elixir of life. He went to the Kunlun Mountains where the Western Queen Mother lived.

Out of respect for the good deeds he had done, the Western Queen Mother rewarded Hou Yi with the elixir, a fine powder made from kernels of fruit which grew on the tree of eternity. At the same time, she told him that if he and his wife shared the elixir, they would both enjoy eternal life; but if only one of them took it, that one would ascend to Heaven and become immortal.

Hou Yi returned home and told his wife all that had happened and they decided to drink the elixir together on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month when the moon was full and bright.

 

A wicked and merciless man named Feng Meng overheard their plan. He wished Hou Yi an early death so that he could drink the elixir himself and become immortal. His opportunity finally arrived. One day, when the full moon is rising, Hou Yi was on his way home from hunting. Feng Meng killed him. The murderer then ran to Hou Yi's home and forced Chang'er to give him the elixir. Without hesitating, Chang'er picked up the elixir and drunk it all.

Overcome with grief, Chang'er rushed to her dead husband's side, weeping bitterly. Soon the elixir began to have its effect and Chang'er felt herself being lifted towards Heaven.

Chang'er decided to live on the moon because it was the nearest to the earth. There she lived a simple and contented life. Even though she was in Heaven, her heart remained in the world of mortals. Never did she forget the deep love she had for Hou Yi and the love she felt for the people who had shared their sadness and happiness.

It is said that Chang'er transformed herself into brilliant moonlight and descended to earth to offer good fortune. Thus, couples swear their mutual love under the full moon while separated lovers pray for reunion under the full moon.

Another legend explained the role of the Old Man on the Moon, the Divine Match-maker. The Chinese believed that marriages were made in Heaven but prepared on the moon. The Old Man on the Moon tied the feet of young men and women with red cords for marriages. Thus a maiden made offerings and prayed to him during the Mid-Autumn Festival, hoping that some day she would ride in the red bridal sedan chair.
 

 后面的英文看的累死了

 原来传说是这样来的啊, 感慨啊

谢谢deepblue:)