WHAT IS MID AUTUMN FESTIVAL?
Also known as Lunar Festival, it is a huge festival and one of the most important festivals in Chinese culture (other cultures celebrate Mid Autumn as well, such as the Vietnamese). I’ve made an 8 part Mid Autumn Festival Series so you can learn a little bit more each day about the festival to countdown so you’ll be totally ready the day of!
So what does it celebrate, when does it happen, what are some of the traditions to this festival, what are the legends to the festival and many more questions answered! Read on.
WHEN IS MID AUTUMN FESTIVAL?
Mid Autumn is based on the lunar calendar and it occurs on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar which is a calendar based on the moon. On this particular day, the moon is at its fullest and roundest.
WHY IS IT BEING CELEBRATED?
It is a celebration and worship of the moon and of the bountiful harvest to come. It is a family oriented holiday (similar to Thanksgiving) and the whole family gathers and worships the moon. This is also a farmer related holiday whereby people believed that if you worshipped the moon, it would give them a bountiful harvest the following year.
WHO CELEBRATES THIS?
The Chinese culture celebrates this holiday, as does the Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean and etc. A lot of Asian cultures celebrate a similar festival and most likely those that use to follow the lunar calendar. For the sake of this and proceeding posts, I mostly only talk about the Chinese Mid Autumn Festival.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING THE FESTIVAL?
In Hong Kong, the day after Mid Autumn Festival is a public holiday because the family stays up late playing games and celebrating on the day of Mid Autumn. Generally, you will also get off around 2 hours earlier on Mid Autumn Festival and that’s because the family will come together for a meal and this meal is very important so people need to be given ample time to get home and to prepare for the meal. Just like the shape of the full moon on this particular day, this dinner represents reunion and completeness; therefore, it is very important that all family members are present. If you’re planning on eating out, make sure you’ve made reservations well in advance.
Weeks leading up to the Mid Autumn Festival, people will buy moon cakes, which are round and they’re traditionally made with lotus seed paste on the inside with a egg yolk and then with a sweet outside layer. People buy moon cakes and also give moon cakes to their friends and family and so for the bakeries, this is one of their cow cash events of the year. Moon cakes generally are quite expensive (around $40HKD for one, and you get normally 4 in a box).
After the plentiful meal, the family will head outside to worship and appreciate the moon and the fact they’re able to have the entire family together to do it. Everybody gathers around to eat moon cakes; the children will light their lanterns and have fun playing with them, and the older kids will “melt wax”. “Melt wax” is now illegal in Hong Kong because it is quite dangerous. What people will do is they will use the empty moon cake tin boxes and then melt wax into it. They then put some water into it, and the melted wax will start exploding, and the hot wax flies. Everybody will play around outside until it is quite late and because it is a public holiday the next day, a lot of theatres will have a late late night screening so people may then go watch a movie at 12am/1am to finish the night off.
SO WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON TRADITIONS AND THINGS THAT YOU DO DURING MID AUTUMN?
- Buy moon cakes and Mid Autumn related fruits, such as pomelo & exchange with friends and family.
- Buy a lantern before the day of
- Have dinner with family
- Worship the moon
- Eat mooncake
- Eat the fruits
- Play outside with your lantern
- Say Happy Mid Autumn Festival to your friends and family
AND FOR THOSE IN HONG KONG? ANY OTHER COOL EVENTS FOR MID AUTUMN FESTIVAL?
Two events that you should definitely check out! One is the Lantern Carnival at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay. Victoria Park will have the biggest display of lanterns lit up in Hong Kong and this usually starts only a few days before Mid-Autumn Festival. For the 2016 dates, you can visit the Tourism HK site for exact hours and info here. The link is a pdf and it also states all the other different Lantern Carnivals that are available around the city.
TAI HANG FIRE DRAGON DANCE
Directly from the Tai Hang Fire dragon site: “The Tai Hang Fire Dragon has its origins dating back to the 1880’s. It all started in Tai Hang, where it was a small Hakka village and the villagers, mostly farmers and fishermen, one day killed a serpent. The next morning; however, the dead body was nowhere to be found and a few days later, a plague had spread through out the Tai Hang village and many died of infection. Meanwhile, a village elder saw the Buddha one night in his dreams and was told to perform a Fire Dragon Dance and to burn fire crackers at the Mid Autumn Festival. The sulphur in the fire crackers drove away the disease and the villagers were saved!
Since then, every year the Tai Hang residents will perform the Fire Dragon Dance for three nights in the Mid-Autumn Festival in memory of the incident. The Fire Dragon is altogether 220 feet long with its body divided into 32 segments, all of which are stuffed with straw and stuck full of incense sticks, and is known as the “Fire Dragon”.”
Also taken directly from their site:
I’ve been told that the incense really stings the eyes so make sure to bring glasses or something to shield the eyes but the dragon head never came close enough to us for that to happen. It occurs for 3 days (For 2017, it will be from October 3-6) from around 8-10pm. For exact location, exact time, and further info, visit their site here. We wrote about our experiences from 2016 here, which is a great read, especially if you want to know where you should stand. We made the mistake of standing behind the stage and never got good photos – make sure you don’t make the same mistake as us!
Hope that this has helped with all those burning questions about Mid Autumn Festival. Second post of the series is regarding the ultimate fruit of the Mid Autumn Festival, the pomelo! How to Open and Peel a Pomelo like a boss – read it here.