Moon Festival – The Chinese Mid Autumn Festival

June 3, 2021

Table of Contents

Festivals bring families together, traditions forward, and people closer. Each country has different customs, traditions, and beliefs; all make up a mind-blowing celebration over the holidays. One such festival is the Moon Festival, also called the Mid Autumn festival celebrated by the people of China. Many Southeastern and West Asian countries also celebrate this festival by different names. Let us check Chinese Moon Festival facts that make the celebration more pompous. 

What Is The Mooncake Festival or Moon Festival?

The Moon Festival or the Mooncake festival has existed for more than 3000 years, dating back to the emperors of China who worshiped the full moon, thanking it for prolific harvests. This festival is named and celebrated differently in different Southeast and East Asian countries. It is the 2nd most important festival coming right after the Chinese New Year.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated around the full moon time of the autumnal equinox. Hence Mid Autumn Festival dates keep changing year after year. However, the official date for the festivity is the 15th day of the eighth month of the Chinese calendar. Being a Chinese calendar, a lunar one, date shuffling is a ritual too.

Moon Festival Dates

20201 October
202121 September
2022September 10
2023September 29
2024September 17
Past and upcoming Moon Festival Dates

The Legend Of The Autumn Full Moon Festival

Learning about legends is as important as paying your mid-autumn festival greetings. The legend of the Moon festival revolves around Chang’e (嫦娥) and Hou Yi (后羿). However, various versions of this tale exist. But only four mentions about Chang’e and Hou Yi are the most relatable. 

The Lady Chang’e Flying To The Moon

Here is Chang’e flying to the moon summary in a nutshell. It is one of the most famous mid-autumn festival legends

Chang’e and Hou Yi were husband and wife. Hou Yi was an excellent archer and was asked to go on a mission. A mission to take down 10 suns that were withering the earth. Using just a bow and arrow, he killed 9 of them. As a reward, he was offered the elixir by the Queen’s mother of the west. The elixir could provide him immortality, but he wasn’t willing to ingest the elixir alone, given his love for his wife. He did accept the elixir but gave it to his wife to hold onto under her protection.

One of Hou Yi’s students, Pang Meng, heard about the elixir. Greed took over him and he tried to seize the opportunity to steal it when Hou Yi went out hunting. Just as he was progressing with the theft, realizing that she couldn’t defeat the man, Chang’e drank the elixir before he could put his hand on it. As a result of immortality and not wanting to abstain from her husband, she fled to the moon. Upon hearing of his wife’s trials, Hou Yi grew sad and arranged a table of fruits and food in the hope of bringing his wife back.

Another version of this story is where Chang’e turns into a toad on her way to the moon. Although her beauty was now gone, the toad was considered a symbol of fertility in the matriarchal society, and flying to the moon was considered a ritual of chasing the moon where the ancestors wanted to be close to the God they now worship.

Hou Yi Making Cakes

After his wife’s departure, Hou Yi and Chang’e missed each other. Coming across their misery, an immortal informed Hou Yi of how he could reunite with his wife again. Hou Yi had to make round-shaped cakes made of flour and place them in the Northwest direction of his home and shout out the name of the person he misses the most ( his wife). He was assured that he would reunite with his wife at the Mid-Autumn Festival by doing all this. 

Hou Yi did everything suggested by the immortal and finally met his wife, who he so deeply yearned for. The cakes that he made became various mooncakes that we see today. And exchanging mid-autumn festival wishes became a custom for ages. 

Jade Rabbit Mashing Herbs

It is said that three sages transformed themselves into three sorry older men to test living beings. They ran across money, a fox, and a rabbit on their quest. They pleaded for food; the fox and the monkey shared their food. But the rabbit had nothing to give, so he jumped into the fire and offered himself as food to the older men. 

Surprised and moved by his gesture they blessed the rabbit and sent him off to live in the Moon Palace. In the Moon Palace, he was entitled as the Jade Rabbit

Chang’e was alone in the Moon Palace. The arrival of the Jade rabbit was pleasant for her. For now, she had someone to keep her company. Chang’e grew fond of him and their friendship and told the rabbit how much she missed Hou Yi. The rabbit wanted to help her go back to the earth upon hearing this. He decided to brew cherubic medicine. Unfortunately, he appears to be unsuccessful in doing so. Many say that the rabbit can be seen making the medicine during the Mid Autumn Festival even today.  

Wu Gang Cleaving Sweet Osmanthus Tree

Wu Gang Cleaving Sweet Osmanthus Tree - Moonfestival

A woodcutter named Wu Gang, who originally lived on the earth, was sent to the Moon Palace after he had upset the Almighty. Wu Gang was driven by greed and was sent there as punishment. Once in the Palace, he was told that if he were successful in cutting down the sweet-smelling Osmanthus tree, he would attain magical powers. 

He stroked his axe multiple times on the tree’s bark for days extending to months and more. But the tree had healing powers, so each scar it got disappeared in an instant. The tree grew stronger and bigger, sheltering the Palace.

Why The Moon Festival Is Celebrated.

The 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese Lunisolar calendar is celebrated as an appreciation for the ample harvest. It is called Chuseok in Korea, Tsukimi in Japan, Tết Trung Thu in Vietnam along with many other names changing with each country. This day coincides with that of the harvest time during mid-autumn. It is a joyous occasion when families gather and admire the moon and are thankful for the harvest. Many lanterns are displayed not just for their beautiful appearance but as a symbol of hope and a path directing everyone towards good fortune and opulence. Along with this, moon-shaped round cakes filled with lotus seed paste or sweet bean paste are enjoyed by all families on their reunion on this festival. Check various mid-autumn festival greetings and mid-autumn festival food traditions to enjoy the true spirit of the festival. 

When Did The Moon Festival Become A Festival?

The mooncake festival has a collective history of 3000 years. It initially began during the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC), when the moon was worshiped. People have faith that eating together around a round table during the brightest full moon will bring them luck and fortune. This first became a festival during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127).

As the Baiyue people believe, the harvest time commences when the dragon brings along with it rain to help them harvest the crops. They only started to celebrate it as a festival during the Tang Dynasty (619-907 CE).

Moonfestival history

Moon Festival History – Chinese Moon Festival Facts

The date of the mid-autumn festival changes every year. Although the date of the festival changes annually in the Gregorian calendar, it usually appears in September and October.

The festivities are very grand, and hence the popular tourist destinations are filled with people wanting to enjoy the scenic environment and the festival. Although only one of the three days is declared a public holiday, people do not enjoy themselves to the fullest if it occurs on a weekday. Still, if it were to occur on the weekend, people would enjoy all the festivities. If you plan to visit during the festival, pre-bookings must be done since everything gets booked many days before the festival.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is the second most important festival in China. People from remote places move to the big cities to work. The only time for them to reunite with their family is during these national holidays. They come back and gather with their families to celebrate in the first half of the year to celebrate the Chinese New Year and the Mid-Autumn festival in the second half of the year. 

Mid-Autumn time is when people take time from their busy schedules and return home for a reunion. With the short lives and full schedules, no one has time to sit and talk about each other’s well-being. Festivals are now everyone’s only chance to meet, greet and enjoy each other’s company over the holidays.

The Mid Autumn Festival customs revolve around the brightest and fullest moon. Praying, worshiping, and valuing the moon for everything it provides forms the celebrational norms of the festival.

The appearance of the full moon is not uniform. It doesn’t always occur on the 15th day. According to the solar movement and the moon phases, it can appear on the 16th or 17th, or even 14th. 

Mooncakes must be prepared for the festival. They’re gifted and received by friends, family, relatives, colleagues, etc., along with worshiping and appreciating the moon. 

The legend of the Moon Festival is where it all started. A tale where an ordinary husband and wife go on to face one of the most tragic events of their life. To save the elixir of immortality from getting into the wrong hands, she had to drink the elixir herself, which made her immortal and the goddess of the moon. 

As part of Mid autumn festival customs, people across the country enjoy flying the colorful lanterns in the sky. The making of lanterns is a huge thing in Southern China, where the lanterns are made from pumpkins, papers, tiles, etc. 

Carrying brightly lit lanterns, lighting lanterns on towers, or floating sky lanterns is customary in China. Following the tradition, even today, some people write riddles on the lanterns and let them off for others to guess the answers.

Which countries celebrate the Moon festival?

One of the most famous questions is, can non-Chinese celebrate the mid-autumn festival, and what are mid-autumn festival wishes

Yes, in fact, besides China, many Asian countries celebrate this festival, like Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Chinese Ethnics worldwide. People offer different things to the moon in different countries. They celebrate differently, but they all have in common: everyone worships the moon for a bountiful harvest and good fortune.

How To Celebrate Moon Festival

People look forward to their traditions during the celebration. Each tradition is as important as the other, each holding meaning to the people. As ordinary, as they might sound, they hold a special place in everyone’s heart. Moon festival celebration traditions include having dinner with your family, eating moon-shaped cakes, worshiping and appreciating the moon, making colorful lanterns to set off in the sky, and enjoying their time together. People give and receive gifts from their loved ones along with celebratory messages. With the new generation, the youth like to travel to some shortly distant places to explore. In contemporary days, watching movies and shopping has also become a part of the celebration of the festival. 

Mid Autumn Festival Customs and Symbols

Symbols and customs of moon festival

These are the five most important symbols of the festival. The whole festival represents gratitude towards the moon and the moon goddess. The five symbols include everything related to them.

Since the moon is the brightest on a particular night people consider it a symbol of contentment, gratification, and prosperity. 

The mooncake’s shape is the symbol of family value completeness and reunion.

The lanterns that are set in the sky by children are a symbol of their delight, bright future, and attainment.

As eye-catching the lion dances are, the lions hold meaning, they symbolize luck welfare, and auspice in life.

Finally, but importantly, the moon goddess symbolizes luck, peace, and completeness in life. 

Why do the Chinese Eat Mooncakes?

Since the moon is the brightest on a particular night, people consider it a symbol of contentment, gratification, and prosperity. 

The mooncake’s shape symbolizes family value, completeness, and reunion. 

When in doubt about how long do mooncakes last, don’t forget to ask about the same from the baker. 

What is the importance of lanterns?

Children’s lanterns set in the sky symbolize their delight, bright future, and attainment.

As eye-catching the lion dances are, the lions hold meaning, and they symbolize luck, welfare, and auspice in life.

Finally, the moon goddess symbolizes luck, peace, and completeness. 

How The Chinese Celebrate The Mid autumn Festival

Tradition of moon festival - mid autumn festival

There are holidays across the country to celebrate the festival with their loved ones. Government offices, banks, and schools are closed for extra days to celebrate the festivities. The festival is celebrated by performing many traditions, one of which is burning incense sticks to respect and honor divinities, including the moon goddess. Dragon and lion dances are performed all over the country but mostly in the southern part of the country.

Significance of Lighting Lanterns During Mooncake Festival

Most might think that lanterns are a part of mere decoration that makes the festival bright and colorful, but their importance goes way back into history. Lanterns symbolize fertility and were made in the persona of local culture, myths, and natural elements. They were lit and sent over rivers to guide the spirits of those who had drowned. People also believed that lighting lanterns in the dark during the festival would be a wish for the sun to return after the winter frost. 

As one of the oldest traditions, writing wishes on sky lanterns and floating them into the sky is believed to honor the legendary goddess of the moon, Chang’e. People hope that by pleasing the goddess with lanterns, she will bless her worshippers with good luck and prosperity.

Folklores Behind The Moon Cake Festival

According to a Chinese tale, a Turpan businessman offered the king of the Tang Dynasty cakes on the 15th day of the eighth lunisolar month. The king pointed to the moon, taking the cake in his hands with a smile, and invited the moon to share the cake. The word of these actions of the king spread, and everyone started doing the same. It is a tradition that the family’s eldest member cuts the mooncakes in pieces and offers each family member to represent unity among the members. 

Another tradition is to pile 13 mooncakes, one on top of the other in the form of a pagoda. 13 mooncakes are used to make this since there are 13 months in the Chinese lunisolar calendar.

Mooncake Festivity- Great Time For Wedlocks 

As a part of the Mooncake festival celebration, girls pray to the moon goddess to fulfill their romantic wishes. The festival timing is considered a good occasion to celebrate marriages. In some parts of the country, dances are held for this affair. Ladies throw their handkerchiefs in the crowd, and the gentleman who catches it gets a chance at a romantic relationship with the lady. 

Early Sports Activities That Marked The Celebration Of Mooncake Festival

In the early 1900s, an ethnographer Chao Wei-Pang researched games for men that involved spirit possession, fortune-telling, and soul flights. Various activities were hosted for men, women, and children. The women took part in ‘Ascent to Heaven,’ an activity where they’d be covered in smoke from incense sticks with their eyes closed and foretell the amazing sights and sounds she encounters. The woman to perform this activity was chosen from a circle of women. 

Another activity was held but with slightly younger females. This activity was called ‘Descent into the Gardens’. According to this, girls represented a tree. The color and number of the flower indicated the number of sex and children she would have in her lifetime. 

For men, the games were different; they played ‘Descent of Eight Immortals’. In this game, one of the players would get possessed by and then decide the roles of scholars and warriors. All these games for men and women but none for children would not be fair, so there’s a game for children. 

Children would gather around in circles, and one of them would be chosen to be the toad king; the others would chant a song that would transform the chosen one into a toad. The toad king was meant to jump around like toads unless someone sprinkles water over his head because the water will make him stop. This game was called ‘Encircling the Toad.’

Top 5 Cities In China For Mid-autumn Festival

5 Cities In China For Mid-autumn Festival

There are different ways people celebrate this festival in different parts of the country. People have different preferences in places they’d like to visit during the holiday. The top 5 cities ideal for Chinese moon holiday are Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Hangzhou, and Guangzhou. 


Beijing has many beautiful sights to offer during the Mid-Autumn festival. The Mid-autumn Festival, Beijing, is like Christmas in New York, only better. One of the most visited places is the Marco Polo Bridge Temple Fair, where people visit to see the traditional Chinese folklore. After a long day exploring, hunger can only be fulfilled by a delicious and happy meal, and there’s no place better than the CCTV Tower. It is as high as 725 feet up in the sky and serves different cuisines, buffets, and various barbeques for people to enjoy during the festival. 

Besides these places, Beihai Park, Shichahai, Yangtaishan, and many more places have a lot to offer to tourists and locals to see and enjoy their time.


Shanghai is the most famous Chinese city in the world. The Disneyland resort in Shanghai is one of the most popular tourist attractions, enjoying time with your family and friends alongside all the Disney characters. Another location is the Bund. It is famous for the restaurants and their tea. People also cruise along the Huangpu River to see the gorgeous lights displayed on the festival night. Other places like the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and Jin Mao Tower are amongShanghai’s best places to visit.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a place full of life and love among everyone. The magnificent display of the Causeway Bay Fire Dragon Dance in Tai Hang is very popular. Almost 300 people volunteer in this dance, for it has been in existence since 1880. The dragon extends up to 70 meters and has 32 sections. In addition, there are food festivals, lantern displays, and much more for everyone to enjoy and cherish.


Hangzhou is most visited for watching the moon reflection in the three pools. The locals call it three pools mirroring the moon, and due to its popularity, it gets very crowded. Hangzhou is famous for its west lakes, and the moon’s reflection in the water bodies is magnificent. Yeuyan (moonstone) on the Fenghuang mountain is said to be the perfect place for moon watching. The moonlight goes through the hole in Yeuyan, and two moons appear before eyes, in the sky, and on the ground. It was called haunted for years but became a place for admiration 800 years ago.


Guangzhou has always celebrated the Mid Autumn festival by eating river snails, hanging lanterns, and bathing. People make lanterns using bamboo and light them from the inside with candles. These are then hung outside their homes in hopes that it will bring them luck. River snails are cooked using medicinal herbs, and consuming them helps improve their eyesight. 

In old times, women believed that the moon was a matchmaker; people who couldn’t reproduce took a chance, and the women took a bath in the river under the moonlight during the festival in hopes of having children. 

All these places, among others, have great stories behind their customs and traditions. Dating back many years when everything started, the stories are mesmerizing and have a moral behind each one. 

What The People In China Eat For The Mid autumn Festival

Many delicacies are prepared for the family to share during the festival. Mooncakes are the most important food prepared in memory of the Moon Goddess Chang’e. They are made using different fillings with a thick pastry as the outer covering. Moon cakes are available only this time of the year so grab them. One may choose from different mooncake filling types as per their taste and pocket-size.

Hairy crabs are also enjoyed at this time. It’s a specialty in Shanghai. It is said that during this time of the year, crabs are getting ready to lay their eggs which makes them all the more delicious. They taste the best, along with ginger and vinegar.

Chinese people believe that some foods bring them luck. One such food is taro. Taro, according to them, stands for ‘luck is inside,’ so eating taro will eliminate their bad luck and bring them only good luck. They’re eaten as a main course. River snails are consumed to improve one’s eyesight. They’re cooked using medicinal herbs to eliminate their smell. Other things, including pumpkin, watermelon, lotus root, pears, and duck, are also eaten for their nutritional value and significance. 

Raise A Toast To The Good Luck Charm 

Eating mooncakes while sipping osmanthus wine or cassia wine, a Chinese alcoholic drink, or Champagne is a contemporary tradition in China during the Mid-Autumn Festival. The Chinese character for osmanthus ‘gwai’ sounds similar to the Chinese word for wealth. So sipping osmanthus wine on the full moon night with the whole family is considered the celebration of prosperity, health, and harmony. 

Also, tea is a traditional drink that Chinese people couple with their mooncakes filled with lotus paste. 

Mid autumn Holiday Getaway With Highlights

Beihai Park in Beijing is a pleasing sight for the eyes. This is where all the high class and emperors came to appreciate the moon’s beauty. People take a cruise in the lake with their families because the beauty of the moon’s reflection in the water is exquisite.

The Echoing Sand mountain in Dunhuang is one of the most popular tourist spots because of the crescent lake named after its shape. Along with enjoying the amazing scenery in the desert, many desert activities are arranged for travelers to participate in.

The beautiful Suzhou city has the smallest yet most beautiful garden, Master of the Nets garden, that showcases an evening performance for the visitors. Artists dress up in ancient costumes and put on shows, including songs and operas in the Suzhou dialect. There are various rooms where a different show is arranged in each room.

The Oriental Pearl TV Tower in Shanghai is one of the highest buildings, 1521 feet from the ground. With a rotating restaurant, visitors can enjoy their meals with the amazing view outside changing. 

There is a place in Guilin where the shape of the cave resembles that of an elephant. The Elephant’s trunk hill or the Water-Moon cave where three moons can be witnessed, one in the sky and 2 reflections. 

Victoria Park in Hong Kong has a glorious celebration for the festival. Folk music, traditional shows, quizzes, and dragon dances in Victoria Park. 

How Mid-autumn Festival Is Celebrated In Asian Countries.

The Mid-Autumn festival is celebrated in many Asian countries, and the celebrations are very similar in some of them. In Korea, it is celebrated as thanksgiving, where people visit the graves of their ancestors and pay them tribute. They make rice cakes and liquor made from freshly harvested rice. All families gather and play traditional games and admire the moon at night. Also, the elderly generation narrate the moon festival jade rabbit story to the younger ones.

The Mid autumn festival Malaysia and Singapore have similar traditions of gathering under the moon, admiring, worshiping, and thanking it for the generous harvest. Children gather at night with their lanterns of various shapes, sizes, and colors and roam around, showing them off. While China has celebrated the festival for 3000 years, Japan has celebrated it for over a thousand years. They pray to the moon for the harvest and a nexus between aesthetic and spirituality in every country. Decorations are seen to be made from Japanese grass named pampas, and rice dumplings are made to go with the celebration. 

Thailand has a different tradition that everyone follows during this year. They too celebrate this occasion on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, but they bring at the altar the statues of eight immortals along with the statue of the Goddess of Mercy, Guanyin. People believe that when they offer peach-shaped cakes to the immortals, they will send them to the moon for their goddess to celebrate her birthday. In return for their offerings, they seek the blessings of the immortals and the goddess.

Netflix Movie Based On The Legend Of The Moon Festival.

Over the Moon (2020) Animation, Adventure, Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Musical, Sci-Fi | 95min | October 23, 2020 (United States) 6.4
Director: Glen Keane, John KahrsWriter: Audrey Wells, Jennifer Yee McDevitt, Alice WuStars: Glen Keane, Brycen Hall, Ruthie Ann MilesSummary: Having grown up hearing her mother's favourite legend about Chang'e, pale moon's goddess who lives alone on the silent celestial body pining for Hou Yi, her long-lost lover, the brilliant thirteen-year-old girl, Fei Fei, is in for an unpleasant surprise. Then, as if that weren't enough, her doting father catches her off-guard by making a life-altering announcement, and Fei Fei's whole world comes crashing down around her. Now, determined to prove him wrong, Fei Fei sets out to build a home-made rocket and blast off to the stars. Does true love last forever? —Nick Riganas


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‘Over the Moon’ is an animated movie released in 2020 available on Netflix whose plot is based entirely on the Legend of the Moon festival. The story is of China where a young girl is told about the Moon Goddess Chang’e during the festival. Unfortunately, her mother falls ill and dies but her father later finds love in another woman. The young girl believes in the story and conspires a plan to go and meet Chang’e on the moon but the series of events takes a turn when her father’s lover’s kid joins her on the journey. Now Chang’e and the young girl both have to find a way to get past the troubles.

This movie is truly a must-watch for those who believe in the legend. It was directed by Glen Keane and written by Audrey Wells. You can check our full list of movies to watch during moon festival in another article.

What Are The Alternate Names For The Mid-autumn Festival?

In Japan, the festival is called Tsukimi, and in Korea, Chuseok. Tết Trung Thu is the name for the festival in Vietnam, เทศกาลไหว้พระจันทร์ (Mid-Autumn Festival) in Thailand, Perayaan Pertengahan Musim Luruh (Mid-Autumn celebration) in Indonesia, Perayaan Kuih Bulan (Mooncake festival) in Malaysia and 中秋節 / 中秋节 in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and Taiwan. Despite the language barriers, the festival is known as the Mid-Autumn festival worldwide. 

How To Pronounce Zhōngqiūjié (中秋节) Or The Moon Cake Festival In Chinese?

The Mid-Autumn Festival or the Moon festival is written in Chinese as 中秋节 and pronounced as zhōngqiūjié.

This festival has huge importance in the lives of the people who worship the moon. People look for mid autumn festival dates to make advance bookings for family trips! It is celebrated every year with great enthusiasm, love, and respect; having to be a part of this celebration is truly a delight.

People Also Ask

What happens during the moon festival?

During the moon festival, people celebrate by eating mooncakes and watching the moon.

How does Hong Kong celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival?

Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated in Hong Kong by eating mooncakes, carrying lanterns, and gathering with family and friends.

When did the moon festival first start?

The moon festival first started in the Tang dynasty.

What is the story behind the moon festival?

The moon festival is based on a Chinese legend about a woman named Chang’e who lived on the moon.

Why do we carry lanterns during Mid-Autumn Festival?

The lanterns are traditionally used to light the way for the moon goddess when she comes down to earth.

Are there lanterns in Mid-Autumn Festival?

Yes, there are lanterns in Mid-Autumn Festival.

Is Mid-Autumn Festival the same as Lantern Festival?

No, Lantern Festival is a separate holiday that is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar.

What is the history of the Mid-Autumn Festival?

The Mid-Autumn Festival is a harvest festival that dates back to ancient China. The holiday was originally a time to give thanks for the autumn harvest, and it was also a time to celebrate the moon. The holiday is still celebrated in China today, and it is also celebrated in other countries with Chinese populations, such as Vietnam and Singapore.

What special events are there in the moon festival?

The moon festival is a special event that occurs on the night of the full moon.

How is the moon festival celebrated for kids?

The moon festival is celebrated for kids by making mooncakes. Mooncakes are small round cakes that are filled with lotus seed paste and have a duck egg in the center.

Why is it important to celebrate the moon festival?

The moon festival is a time to celebrate the harvest and give thanks to the moon goddess for her blessings. It is also a time to enjoy the company of family and friends, and to eat mooncakes!

What activities do they do at the Mid-Autumn Festival?

People usually eat mooncakes and look at the moon during the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Why did Chang E fly to the moon?

The moon goddess, Chang’e, flew to the moon after she stole the elixir of life from her husband.

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