Everything you need to know about Mid-Autumn Festival

The Mid-Autumn Festival: A Time to Give Thanks

What is the Mid-Autumn Festival?

The Chinese MId-Autumn Festival is the second most important celebration in the Chinese Calendar after Chinese New Year. All those of Chinese heritage throughout the world revere this event as a time for reunions and is considered the Chinese equivalent to Thanksgiving in the United States. This festival is similar to the Tsukimi in Japan and Chuseok in Korea . 

A common sight to behold in the celebration is the lighting of lanterns by families. It is also an enchanting sight to see lanterns afloat in the night sky. 

Since this festival is also called the Moon Festival or the Mooncake Festival, it is also traditional to see elaborately decorated mooncakes given as gifts to loved ones and visitors. 

A Tale as old as History: The Origins of the Mid-Autumn Festival

The Mid-Autumn Festival had its origins from the Zhou Dynasty as it evolved from a form of Moon Worship around 3000 years ago. At this time, the festival was merely a time for the emperor to provide offerings to the moon but later gained popularity during the Tang Dynasty as more prosperous families and officials, and later on the commoners began sharing in the celebration of thanks to the moon. 

The Mid-Autumn Festival became an official festival during the Song Dynasty. Mooncakes became part of the celebratory preparations from the Yuan Dynasty. 

The festival’s popularity peaked at the Ming and Qing Dynasties with the addition of the floating lanterns and the fire dragon dances. The celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival  became a public holiday in the year 2008. 


The Legend of Chang’E: The Woman on the Moon

One of the more popular legends in the Mid-Autumn Festival involves the story of Chang’E. 

Chang’E originally used to live in heaven when she angered the Jade Emperor who then banished her to live on Earth, on the condition that she may return to Heaven. when she provided the people there with a valuable service. 

On Earth, she lived on Earth as the daughter of a poor farmer, when she met the archer Hou Yi. At some point, ten suns rose at the same time, which threatened to burn the planet. Hou Yi was tasked to shoot nine of the ten suns and was rewarded with the Elixir of Immortality. 

Here the legend varies, as Chang’E was attacked by one of her students, or sought to escape Hou Yi. She took the Elixir of Immortality and floated upwards to the moon where she is said to live until now together with a rabbit. 

Legend states that one can see her shadow as she moves around the moon. 



The Legend of the Jade Rabbit

The story of the Jade Rabbit begins with three sages (wise men) who transformed 

themselves into humans and encountered a fox, a monkey and a rabbit. Stating that they were hungry, the fox and the monkey shared their food. 

The rabbit, as it had nothing to give them, threw itself into the fire and offered its meat for them to eat.  Touched by the Rabbit’s kindness, the three sages sent the rabbit to live in the Moon Palace where it became the Jade Rabbit. 

When Chang’E saw the Jade Rabbit, she and the rabbit became friends. The rabbit sought to help Chang’E return to Earth to be reunited with Hou Yi and began preparations for a special medicine to do that. 

The rabbit, according to legend, can still be seen on the moon making the medicine as it has not yet been finished. 



How is the Festival Celebrated?

Families traditionally see the Mid-Autumn Festival as a time for reunion, and often meet other family members at this time for a shared celebration. The mothers in the family often spent time during the Mid-Autumn Festival to prepare foods that are commonly eaten. 

Nowadays, most families prefer to book their reservations at a restaurant so that they may spend more time with their loved ones, especially if they came from far away. Have a look at the list below and check if you have eaten these foods in your celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival. 


Common Foods Eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival

  • Mooncakes ( A must-have for the Mid-Autumn Festival)
  • Pumpkin (A Symbol of Good Health)
  • River Snails (For Brighter Eyes)
  • Taro (For Good Fortune)
  • Wine with Osmanthus Flowers/Flowered Wine (Represents a Long Life)
  • Duck (Cooked in any way, but usually served with Crispy Skin)
  • Hairy Crab (A Seasonal Delicacy in the Mid-Autumn Festival)


The decor for the Mid-Autumn Festival can vary from family to family, but one common item is always present no matter what,  would be the lanterns. Chinese children know that the festival is near when they begin to make their own lanterns. 


These lanterns are often played with during the festival. For parents who have their concerns with their children playing with fire, a child-friendly and safer version of a lantern can be made with the use of a battery-powered lamp. 


These lanterns can take any shape, and special lanterns called Kongming Lanterns can be made so that the lanterns can float upwards with the help of a candle in the lantern. Check out Campfire Crates free lantern printables so you can make your own. 


The Mid-Autumn Festival would not be complete without the most popular food item at this time, the Mooncake. The Mooncake can be elaborately decorated and packed in equally exquisite packages that can be more expensive than the actual mooncake itself. 


Most families prefer to purchase their own mooncakes as the procedure could be quite tedious, and stores tend to produce more elaborately detailed packaging. Most mooncakes are filled with lotus paste or red bean paste, but other fillings are available as well, both sweet and savory. 


Here’s a look at how other Chinese communities all over the world celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival: 


The Chinese Community in Malaysia

The celebrations of the Mid-Autumn Festival in the Chinese Communities in Malaysia typically include prayers, a reunion dinner which also includes eating mooncakes as part of the custom and the children playing with lanterns. 

The Chinese Communities in the Philippines

The Filipino Chinese celebrations of the Mid-Autumn Festival typically take place in the Chinatown area of the country. A parade of people in their elaborate costumes holding the lanterns takes place along with dragon dances and float parades. 

The Chinese Community in Singapore

Singaporean celebrations of the Mid-Autumn Festival include festive stalls and performances, as well as newer traditions including lantern painting contests and moon-appreciation parties on the beach. 

The Chinese Community in Vietnam

   The Vietnamese raise a platform on which food and mooncakes are set out, and the family joins together to appreciate the moon. 

The Children carry Carp-Shaped Lanterns and a Lion Dance Parade often takes place in the Mid-Autumn Festival in Vietnam. 

The Chinese Community in South Korea

The Mid-Autumn Festival is known as Chuseok in South Korea and is one of the country’s biggest festivals. Unique customs to the Chinese in South Korea are the Ancestor Worship and Tomb-Sweeping . 


Popular gifts given include Beef, Fruit, Spam, Edible Oil and Health Care Products. These are usually given in the Mid-Autumn Festival. 

The Chinese Community in Japan

The Chinese communities in Japon refer to the Mid-Autumn Festival as Tsukimi or Otsukimi which means “Moon Watching”

Moon Worship is still carried out, along with decorating the houses with Pampas Grass to welcome Autumn. Incense is often offered to ancestors. Lion dances also take place. 

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