Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Lantern or Mooncake Festival, is one of the most wholesome, colourful traditional holidays in East Asia.
Taking place on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, this long-held festival dates all the way back to the Tang dynasty. Traditionally, family members will come together with gifts and mooncakes to have dinner and enjoy looking at the full moon on this special day. You’ll always know when Mid-Autumn is around the corner because there will be vibrant lanterns and tempting advertisements of mouth-watering mooncakes everywhere.
With most public celebratory events being cancelled this year, the 2020 Mid-Autumn festivities might look a little different but there’s still plenty to love about this quaint holiday.
Whether you were raised celebrating Mid-Autumn Festival or new to East Asian customs, here's our compilation of Mid-Autumn Festival highlights – we’re sure you'll love it as much as we do!
There are several folk legends behind Mid-Autumn Festival, but perhaps the most widely told story is about Chang E the moon goddess. Legend has it that there was a time when ten suns existed, and the heat was near unbearable for people on Earth. A man named Hou Yi shot down nine of the suns and was presented with an elixir that would make him a god.
Hou Yi took the elixir home but one day, a villain named Peng Meng found out about the elixir and broke into his home while Hou Yi was out. In an act of desperation, Hou Yi’s wife Chang E drank the elixir and became a moon goddess. Since that day, Hoy Yi would gather foods that Chang E liked and placed it on a table outside during the day of a full moon.
It became a long-standing tradition as people began to pray to Chang E the moon goddess for good luck and a bountiful harvest over the centuries, which is how Mid-Autumn Festival was formed. Plus, we all love an eternal star-crossed romance.
What’s a mooncake festival without delectable mooncakes in their many, many forms?
Mooncakes are traditional Chinese pastries eaten during Mid-Autumn Festival. The classic mooncake is typically round or square in shape and composed of a thin pastry exterior, a smooth, sweet, dense filling made from red bean or lotus paste. Some mooncakes may also have a salted duck yolk that represents the full moon. They are often sliced into small wedges to be shared with family members and symbolize harmony and good fortune.
Although many bakeries, restaurants and hotels across East Asia continue to make and sell thousands upon thousands of delicious traditional mooncakes, there are constantly new flavours and designs being created – resulting in ultra-modern mouthwatering treats that are all too hard to refuse.
From the classics such as chocolate and green tea to the delightfully innovative such as durian, black truffle or even ice-cream (best eaten chilled!), there is no shortage of choice to tempt even the most dedicated calorie-watchers.
Another great thing about the mooncake is its history! Nowadays, people automatically associate mooncakes with Mid-Autumn Festival, but what they probably don’t realize is that mooncakes were once used to pass secret messages in the Ming uprising against Mongol rule during the Yuan dynasty.
The pastries were decorated with an intricate design containing a hidden message indicating an uprising on the 15th day of the eighth month, the same day we celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival. After the successful rebellion, the mooncake became affiliated with Mid-Autumn Festival and is thus now widely eaten on this day.
“May we live long and share the beauty of the moon together, even if we are hundreds of miles apart.”
This romantic quote from a famous poem written by Su Shi perfectly captures the spirit of Mid-Autumn Festival.
In recent years, Mid-Autumn Festival has become somewhat of a special occasion for couples, a slightly less Hallmark-y version of Valentine’s Day. However, above all, Mid-Autumn Festival is a day for family unity. No matter how busy they might be, people living away from home will do their best to see their loved ones, even if it means travelling overseas. There are some complications with that these days, but we now know that with Zoom, there’s a way.
While there are minor differences in how people around the world celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival, the tradition of families coming together, enjoying a scrumptious dinner and admiring the full moon is the same no matter where you are.
If you asked a room full of people whether they like having a long weekend, it’s a sure bet that every hand will be in the air! We might not be able to travel this year, but at least we’re only spending three days hunched over a computer this week. So, it’s no surprise that one of the reasons people love Mid-Autumn so much is that it gives us a glorious four-day weekend to eat, drink, staycation, and be merry, especially when we’ve had a year like 2020!
All in all, Mid-Autumn Festival is a refreshingly low-key, feel-good holiday. And who wouldn’t love that?