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

The Mid-Autumn festival is one of the traditional Chinese festivals and China's second largest traditional festival after the Spring Festival. The 15th day of the eighth lunar month is called "Mid-Autumn", and the night "Night of the Moon". Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as Moon Festival, takes places on that day when the moon is supposedly at its fullest and roundest.

For Chinese people, the full moon is a symbol for family reunion. At the Mid-Autumn Festival, all the family members would gather together to taste moon cakes and appreciate the round moon. The date in the Western calendar changes annually.

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 of Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival

- 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+

Date – When is Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival 2022

YearDate Day Holiday
2024 Sep 10 Saturday Sep 10 to 12
2023 Sep 29 Friday Sep 29 to Oct.1
2022 Sep 10 Saturday Sep 10 to 12
2021 Sep 21 Tuesday Sep 21 to 23

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 (后裔) 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 (嫦娥). Many young men came to learn shooting from Houyi, Peng Meng (蓬蒙) 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.

  • 6 Famous Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival Legends & Stories
  • History of Mid-Autumn Festival

    Mid-Autumn Festival originated from the Moon sacrifices in ancient times. In ancient China, emperors followed the rite of offering sacrifices to the sun in spring and to the moon in autumn. Later aristocrats and literary figures helped expand the ceremony to common people. Historical books of the Zhou Dynasty (1066 B.C. - 221 B.C.) have had the word "Mid-Autumn". At that time, people hold ceremonies to greet winter and worship the moon.

    The custom was passed down to the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) when people enjoy and worship the full moon. In the Song Dynasty (960-1279), the 15th day of the eighth lunar month was formally named the Mid-Autumn Festival. People sent round moon cakes to their relatives as gifts in expression of their best wishes of family reunion. And since the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing dynasties (1644-1911), the custom of Mid-Autumn Festival celebration has become unprecedentedly popular.

    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. For Chinese people, those palm-sized round cakes symbolize family unity and perfection. They eat moon cakes to express their homesickness and love for their family member.

    A traditional moon cake is made of a sweet bean-paste filling with golden brown flaky skin. And a golden yolk from a salted duck egg, which looks like a bright moon, was placed at the center of each cake. 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.

    Over time, both crusts and the fillings of moon cakes have diversified, for changing taste preferences and people would buy it from stores as early as in 7th lunar month. Moreover, to adapt to today's health-conscious lifestyle, fat-free and even high-fibre low sugar moon cakes also appeared. Customers can freely choose and pick the size and filling of moon cakes that suits their taste and diet.

    Moon cake for Mid-autumn Festival


    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.


    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.

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    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

    Mid-Autumn Festival is an evening celebration for family reunion. Most activities follow the custom of worshipping the moon in ancient times. At the night of Mid-Autumn Festival, people invite friends and relatives to hold family reunion feast for celebration. After the feast, they would sacrifice moon cakes, fruits and wine to the full moon at the open space. Every one prays for the blessing of Moon Goddess.

    Then, they would admire the full moon, taste moon cakes, drinking, chatting even dancing under the moon. Actually, contents of celebration varied in different areas of China: putting pomelo rinds on one's head, lighting lanterns on towers, floating sky lanterns, burning incenses to the moon, planting Mid-Autumn trees, perform the Fire Dragon Dances...

    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, Hong Kong, etc.


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