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Tsukimi (“moon-viewing”) are Japanese festivals honoring the autumn moon when it is especially bright due to the relative positions of the earth, sun, and moon. From 862 until 1683, the Japanese calendar was arranged so that the full moon fell on the 13th day of each month, but then it was altered so that the new moon fell on the 1st day of each month, so the full moon was always on the 15th day of the month. In the Edo (Tokyo) area people celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month (usually in September, according to the modern solar calendar) while in other areas they continued to observe the festival on the 13th (or even the 17th), and Buddhist observances occurred on the 23rd or the 26th. Some people repeat the activities for several evenings following the appearance of the full moon. Decorations made from Japanese pampas grass (susuki) are displayed, rice dumplings (tsukimi dango) eaten to celebrate the moon’s beauty, and sweet potatoes and sake offered as prayers for an abundant harvest. The custom originated during the Heian (“peace”) period (794-1185) when elements of the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival were introduced to Japan; aristocrats would hold moon-viewing events aboard boats in order to view the moon's reflection on the surface of the water, and they would write and recite tanka poetry.
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