Mid-Autumn Festival – What is It & What to Do?

Falling on the annual lunar August 15, the Mid-Autumn festival is one of the traditional Chinese festivals and China's second largest traditional festival after the Spring Festival.

In China, the moon represents mother or female in matrilineal society. Traditionally, it’s also expresses people's worship of life. People also use it to judge the reincarnation of time. The round shape of the moon symbolizes reunion in China, for nostalgia, homesickness, praying for a bumper harvest, happiness, wealth, now it becomes an important cultural heritage.

Mid-autumn Festival celebration

Facts

- In Chinese: 中秋节, Zhongqiu Festival

- Other names: Moon-worship Festival, Moon Cake Festival, Reunion Festival

- Significance: the second largest festival in China. 

Mid-Autumn festival and Dragon Boat Festival, Spring Festival, Tomb-sweeping day and known as China's four traditional festivals.

- History: 3000+

Origin – the legend of Mid-Autumn Festival

There are three versions of the story of Mid-Autumn Festival, but the story of Chang'e flying to the moon is more widespread.

It is said, there were ten suns in the sky in the ancient time, which made crops die and people couldn’t live. A man named Houyi with great power, he sympathized with the people who are in the suffering. So he climbed to top of the Kunlun Mountain, and then shut down nine suns for the benefit of the people.

Houyi was so respected and loved by the people, soon he married a beautiful and kind wife named Chang 'e. Many young men came to learn shooting from Houyi, Peng Meng also mixed in.

One day, Houyi encountered the queen of heaven. She rewarded Houyi an elixir and told him if he and Chang'e share the elixir on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, they can both enjoy eternal life; but if only one take it, that one will ascend to heaven and become immoral. Houyi went back home and told Chang'e but wicked Feng Meng heard about the plan and decided to take the medicine away.

Mid-autumn Festival story

Some days later, Houyi went out for shooting with his students, Peng Meng lied to escape the practice. After they leaving, he threatened Chang'e to hand out the elixir by sword. Chang'e couldn’t want the precious elixir fall into bad guy, so she gulped down the elixir. At that moment, Chang'e got light and flew throw the window into the sky. She landed on the moon so that she can see the earth.

In the evening, Houyi backed home, knowing what happened, he got very angry and shocked. He rushed to Peng Meng’s house to kill him but Peng Meng had already run away. He cried out sadly, calling Chang'e’s name. Suddenly, he saw a figure in the moon, looked like his wife so much, he wanted to get closer to it, but no matter how he struggled, there was still a long distance.

Only can he do to express his thought of love is to serve Chang'e’s favorite food in the yard when the moon gets the closest to the earth on the annual lunar August 15. When people knew that, they all did as Houyi did to pray for peace and health. Since then, the Mid-Autumn festival worship as the customs of the folk spreads.

Date

 YearDateDayHoliday
2019Sep 13FridaySep 13 to 15
2020Oct 1 ThursdayOct 1 to 3
2021Sep 21Tuesday Sep 21 to 23

Food – What do we eat during Mid-Autumn Festival?

Moon cakes 

Eating moon cakes is the best-known custom in Mid-Autumn Festival, in round shape, measuring about three inches in diameter and one in thickness. A golden yolk from a salted duck egg was placed at the center of each cake, and the golden brown crust was decorated with symbols of the festival. It can be filled with kinds of stuffing and people would buy it from stores as early as in 7th lunar month. The flavor of moon cake also varies based on region. Moon cakes in Guangdong are wrapped in a pastry-like crust and are famous for their meticulously prepared fillings; while Moon cakes in Peking areas are crisp with savory outer crust.

Moon cake for Mid-autumn Festival

Pomelo

At some parts of China, eating pomelo on Mid-Autumn Day is an indispensable activity. The name of this fruit is homophonous with that for "blessing", and is considered auspicious. It features pointed top, round bottom and thin skin with honey sweet taste.

Escargots

In southern China especially Guangdong province, most of the family have the habit of cooking escargots. Around Mid- Autumn Festival, there are no small snails in the belly of field snails, so the meat is fat. 

Osmanthus’ flowers wine

Autumn is the season when osmanthus flowers are in full bloom; people enjoy the moonlight and smell the fragrance of osmanthus flowers while having a cup of flower wine, drinking flower wine means the family becomes sweet.

What to drink during Mid-autumn Festival

Activities – How to celebrate this Moon-cake Festival?

Worship the moon

The custom of worshipping the moon can be traced back to 2000 BC, people hold ceremonies to greet the winter and the moon. This became popular in Tang Dynasty, then in Song Dynasty, the custom of Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations became unprecedented popular. Nowadays, activities vary in different parts of the country, such as eating moon cake, lighting lanterns and fire dragons, playing lion dance or dragon dance, burning incense and some other interesting practices.

Family reunion

The Mid-Autumn Festival is also an important occasions for family reunion as the full moon rises, all the families members would sit together and have a reunion dinner. After dinner, they would watch the full moon arise in the courtyard and eat moon cake, sing moon poems.

Make lanterns

The Mid-Autumn festival is one of the three major lantern festivals in China. Indeed, the lantern show in the Mid-Autumn festival is not as big as that of the Lantern Festival, make lanterns mainly among families. In Guangzhou and Hong Kong area, children with the help of their parents make paper lanterns and put them higher, or launch Kongming lanterns into sky. In Nanning, Guangxi, there are also simple pomelo lantern, pumpkin lanterns, orange lanterns. The so-called pomelo lantern is to hollow out the pomelo pulp, carve out a simple figure, put on a rope, light candles inside.

Activities at Mid-autumn Festival

Celebrate in other Asian countries

Not only in China, but also in many Asian countries, celebrating the Mid- Autumn Festival is still popular. 

●In Vietnam, different from Chinese Mid-Autumn festival, children and carps are the heroes and custom feature of Vietnamese Mid-Autumn festival. Parents will spend more time to company with kids on the day, and kids will run around with carp lantern which means "jumping through dragon gate(gaining fame)" when they grow up.

●In Japan, it’s called the Fifteenth Night. Japanese get together, eat reunion dinner and moon cakes, and eat rice dumplings while enjoying the sight of the moon. Since it’s also in a harvest season, the Japanese also hold various celebrations to show their gratitude for the blessings of nature, such as worship, tugging of war, playing lion dance, etc.

●In South Korea, people call Mid-Autumn Festival “Chuseok”, giving gifts to relatives and friends is also the custom of the Korean Mid-Autumn festival, so they also called the Mid-Autumn festival "Thanksgiving”. With a three-day holiday, it is a big festival in South Korea; people usually visit their families during the festival.

Dragon dance at Mid-autumn Festival

●In Malaysia, Philippine and Singapore, Chinese communities in some places hold lantern parades to celebrate the Mid-Autumn festival. In addition to dragon and lion dances, floats carrying Chang'e and seven fairies roam during the festival.

Best places to visit during Mid-Autumn Festival

As for traveling, we suggest that you avoid top china attractions or places when they are too crowded during the festival. Instead, you can visit some cities or small towns with strong festive atmosphere like Guiyang, Guangzhou, Nanning, Hong Kong, etc.