Every year on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month of the Chinese calendar, Chinese people around the globe gather under the night sky to eat mooncakes, sip green tea and think of their loved ones in faraway places.
For those have travelled from far and wide to be involved at this year's FIFA Women's World Cup, the Mid-Autumn Festival has also been a time for celebration. To mark this year's festivities, which fell on Tuesday, the tournament hosts did their bit to enhance the family atmosphere, laying on traditional Chinese mooncakes at FIFA's headquarters in Shanghai and creating a welcoming ambience for players and officials alike.
In the case of the Germany team, local reporters could even be heard explaining the traditions of the festival during a press conference ahead of their semi-final against Norway. So Silvia Neid and her players had no excuse for not knowing that on 25 September the moon is closest to the earth and, therefore, at its fullest and brightest.
The tradition of the Mid-Autumn Festival dates back some 3,000
years to the Zhou Dynasty. According to ancient myth, there is a
deity living on the moon named Chang'e, who has only a jade
rabbit for company. Chang'e became entranced by the bright
moonlight and, driven by her longing to find this wondrous place,
she abandoned the mortal world for the moon.
On Mid-Autumn Day, the Chinese eat traditional foods such as mooncake, watermelon, apples and jujubes. When cutting the mooncake - whose pastry exterior holds a sweet paste of meat, fruits and nuts on the inside - the Chinese divide the cake carefully into equal portions to underline the significance of each family member.
Amid all the talk of family get-togethers, Brazil forward Cristiane could not help feeling homesick when she was told about the festival. "This is a fantastic festival, but I really have been missing my family lately," she said. Brazil coach Jorge Barcellos also shared his thoughts with FIFA.com, saying: "It's a very meaningful festival. I've been in China for two weeks now and I'm also missing home. I want to be with my wife and daughter. It's a great feeling being together with your family."
It is not often Tang Dynasty poet Wang Wei is mentioned in football circles but his words about "a lonely stranger in a strange land" missing his family might strike a chord even with some of these well-travelled women players.