Believe it or not, summer is about to come to an end. The long days of sipping yuzu and soda have given way to shorter days of gently warmed sake. If you start seeing rabbits everywhere, don’t worry – you aren’t going crazy. It’s just the symbol of the Autumn Moon Festival (also known as Tsukimi or Jyugoya). Read on to find out more about this time-honored Japanese tradition.
What Is the Autumn Moon Festival?
Tsukimi literally translates to “viewing the moon.” Thus, this festival honors the sight of the full moon in a variety of both fun and solemn ways. The festival itself began being observed as early as the mid-700s, adopted from the Chinese during the Heian period. Festival-goers find a spot where the full moon is clearly visible and display or spread pampas grass for decoration. This plant is considered a holy object and is at its fullest during the fall. Others may head out on the water to observe the moon’s majestic reflection on the surface of the water.
Traditional Foods and Symbols
As with any cultural festival, there are traditional foods to be enjoyed on Jyugoya. One of the most popular dishes at this time of year is dango, or small mochi balls. Mochi, a dumpling made of white rice flour, is a delicious treat at any time of the year. Though it is typically served skewered with a sweet sauce, dango is stacked and served plain during the Autumn Moon Festival. These rice dumplings are sometimes considered an offering to the moon (though you can enjoy them yourself, of course).
A traditional symbol of Tsukimi and Jyugoya is the rabbit. Many people in Japan believe they see a bunny pounding mochi in the full moon, much like people in the states see the face of a man. Because of this, the rabbit is seen as a symbol of the festival itself. One fun way to celebrate this is by making bunny buns to share with your friends.
Of course, a harvest festival also celebrates seasonal cuisine. Foods such as pumpkins and chestnuts abound, making the autumn festival a particularly delicious time of year. Consider making an offer of these and other seasonal goods to the moon on your family altar to show your respect for her beautiful light.
How to Celebrate the Festival
Does all of this sound too fun to pass up? Celebrate your own version of Tsukimi during the full moon this October. Cook up some tasty mochi balls and bunny buns, gather the family, and find a spot in your neighborhood where the moon can be seen on display. Find a spot near the water and appreciate her reflection. If you’re feeling traditional, make an offer of seasonal fruits or display autumnal flowers in your home. There are many ways to enjoy this festive time of year – and it’s a great excuse to try a new recipe or two.