Mid- Autumn Festival

What is it?

The Mid-Autumn Festival is a harvest festival celebrated by the Chinese and Vietnamese people.

When is it?

The festival is held on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar with full moon at night, corresponding to late September to early October of the Gregorian calendar with a full moon at night. In 2018 this was Monday 24th September. (This is a somewhat delayed blogpost!).

How is it celebrated?

The festival celebrations involve gathering, thanksgiving and praying.

  • Gathering of family and friends coming together or harvesting crops for the festival. The moon is the brightest and roundest on this day meaning family reunion.
  • Thanksgiving for the harvest and for harmonious unions.
  • Praying for babies, a spouse, beauty, longevity or for a good future

Traditionally this was a time to enjoy the successful reaping of rice and wheat with food offerings made in honor of the moon.

Today it is outdoor reunions among friends and relatives, to eat mooncakes (more on those later) and watch the moon (a symbol of harmony and unity). The festival is celebrated with many cultural and regional customs including burning incense and the dragon and lion dances.

Part of the celebrations is the carrying of brightly lit lanterns, lighting lanterns on towers, or floating sky lanterns. Gardens by the Bay had a wonderful display of lanterns (see pictures).

Mooncakes

Making and sharing mooncakes is a tradition of this festival. In Chinese culture, a round shape symbolizes completeness and reunion. The sharing and eating of round mooncakes among family members during the week of the festival signifies the completeness and unity of families.

Today, everywhere sells mooncakes in a variety of flavours resulting in the popular custom of giving mooncakes to family members. It is also now customary for businessmen and families to present them to their clients or relatives as presents helping to fuel a demand for high-end mooncakes.

Mooncake Market at NEX mall
Mooncake Market at NEX Mall

Mooncakes are round pastries, measuring about 10 cm in diameter and 3–4 cm thick, A rich thick filling usually made from red bean or lotus seed paste and is  surrounded by a thin (2–3 mm) crust (and may contain yolks from salted duck eggs).

Mooncakes are usually eaten in small wedges accompanied by tea. I tried a green tea and red bean mooncake. I had a small piece with tea. The rest remained on the plate and I don’t think I’ll be venturing to try one again anytime soon. It’s an acquired taste.

Observations

This was the first time we had experienced the Mid Autumn Festival as a family and whilst we didn’t actively take part it was enjoyable to be surrounded by happy people celebrating. I tried an mooncake and we enjoyed the lantern displays at Gardens by the Bay. I look forward to seeing what next year’s celebrations brings.