Harvest is from the Anglo-Saxon word hærfest, "Autumn". It then came to refer to the season for reaping and gathering grain and other grown products. The full moon nearest the autumnal equinox is called the Harvest Moon. However an older civilisation celebrates the festival with their own folk lore:
The Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival,(Also known as the Moon Festival), Zhongqiujie 中秋節, is one of several important holidays in the Chinese calendar and dates back over 3,000 years to China‘s Shang Dynasty. It is sometimes referred to as the Lantern Festival or Mooncake Festival.
It is held on the 15th day of the eighth month of the Chinese calendar, [ usually late September or early October], and coincides with the autumnal equinox when the moon is at its fullest and roundest. In many parts of Asia,farmers celebrate the end of the summer harvesting season on this date. Traditionally on this day, Chinese family members and friends will gather to admire the bright mid-autumn harvest moon, and eat moon cakes under the moon together. This traditional food commemorates an uprising in China against the Mongol rulers of the Yuan Dynasty [1280–1368]. Floods and Black death ravished the countryside, starvation and lack of prudent government and ethnic discrimination against Han Chinese that stirred resentment and unrest. Group gatherings were banned thus impossible to make plans for a rebellion. Noting that the Mongols did not eat moon cakes, Liu Bowen (劉伯溫) of Zhejiang Province, advisor to the Chinese rebel leader Zhu Yuanzhang, proposed the rebellion should coincide with the Mid-Autumn Festival. He sought permission to distribute thousands of moon cakes to the Chinese residents in the city to bless the longevity of the Mongol emperor. Inside each cake, however, was inserted a piece of paper with the message: "Kill the Mongols on the 15th day of the 8th month .” On the night of the Moon Festival, the rebels successfully attacked and overthrew the government. Thus the Ming Dynasty, (1368–1644), was established under Zhu Yuanzhang. Henceforth, the Mid-Autumn Festival was celebrated with moon cakes on a national level.
The Ancient fable of Chang Er
One version of the legend states that Houyi was an immortal and Chang’e was a beautiful young girl, working in the palace of the Jade Emperor (the Emperor of Heaven, 玉帝 pinyin:Yùdì) as an attendant to the Queen Mother of the West (the Jade Emperor’s wife). Houyi aroused the jealousy of the other immortals, who then slandered him before the Jade Emperor. Houyi and his wife, Chang’e, were subsequently banished from heaven. They were forced to live on Earth. Houyi had to hunt to survive and became a skilled archer.At that time, there were ten suns, in the form of three-legged birds, residing in a mulberry tree in the eastern sea. Each day one of the sun birds would have to travel around the world on a carriage, driven by Xihe, the ‘mother’ of the suns. One day, all ten of the suns circled together, causing the Earth to burn. Emperor Yao, the Emperor of China, commanded Houyi to use his archery skill to shoot down all but one of the suns. Upon completion of his task, the Emperor rewarded Houyi with a pill that granted eternal life. Emperor Yao advised Houyi not to swallow the pill immediately but instead to prepare himself by praying and fasting for a year before taking it. Houyi took the pill home and hid it in a case,under a rafter. He warned Chang’e not to open the case, and then left home for a while. Like Pandora in Greek mythology, Chang’e became curious. One day, Houyi was summoned away by the Emperor. During her husband’s absence, Chang’e, noticed a white beam of light beckoning from the rafters, and opening the case discovered the pill. Chang’e swallowed it and immediately found that she could fly. Houyi returned home, realizing what had happened he began to reprimand his wife. Chang’e escaped by flying out the window into the sky. Houyi pursued her halfway across the heavens but was forced to return to Earth because of strong winds. Chang’e reached the moon, where she coughed up part of the pill. Chang’e commanded the hare, who lived on the moon to make another pill. Chang’e would then be able to return to Earth and her husband. The legend states that the hare is still pounding herbs, trying to make the pill.
Houyi built himself a palace in the sun, representing "Yang" (the male principle), in contrast to Chang’e’s home on the moon which represents "Yin" (the female principle). Once a year, on the fifteenth day of the full moon, Houyi visits his wife. That is the reason why the moon is very full and beautiful on that night.