Mid-Autumn Festival is one of China's most unique holidays.
Also known as the Moon Festival or Mooncake Festival, it’s celebrated when the moon is believed to be at its fullest.
A full moon is an auspicious sign in China. The round shape symbolizes family reunion, harmony and happiness.
That's why this time of year is special for Chinese people and a reason to celebrate.
What date is Mid-Autumn Festival?
The date changes each year according to the Chinese lunar calendar.
For example, in 2022 it’s on 10 September, and in 2023 it’s on 29 September.
How did it begin?
It began when people started offering food to the moon in ancient times. If you're interested in mythology, I've included more about the story below.
How do people celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival?
Chinese people celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival by visiting family members and close friends.
They often share a delicious feast of seasonal food that represents the new harvest.
Lanterns hanging up for Mid-Autumn Festival.
The vacation is an opportunity to slow down, enjoy the simple pleasures in life and appreciate the moonlight.
People eat and give each other mooncakes, a traditional symbol of the festival. They may also admire or decorate brightly colored lanterns.
What do people eat during the Mid-Autumn Festival?
Mooncakes are the most traditional food eaten at this time of year.
They’re round like a full moon and a symbol of reunion and happiness.
Mooncakes are essentially a nice-tasting bakery treat. The taste is similar to a fruit-based biscuit, and some can be quite sweet.
The pastry shell is relatively firm, and the inside is dense. Red bean paste and fruit are popular fillings.
Mooncakes are given, shared and eaten at Mid-Autumn Festival (Photo: Wee Keat Chin on Flickr).
Mooncakes are usually decorated on top with Chinese characters or intricate patterns.
If you want to try making your own, here's a recipe for lotus seed mooncakes.
Other popular food eaten during the Mid-Autumn festival includes seasonal food like crabs, and pumpkins and watermelons because they're round.
The pumpkin tradition dates back to ancient China where poor people who couldn’t afford mooncakes would eat pumpkin instead.
For a helpful guide on mooncakes, check out this video.
Are mooncakes important for any other reason?
According to The Economist, mooncakes are a useful indicator of consumption trends.
Mooncakes play this role because of their status as gifts. Ahead of the Mid-Autumn holiday, companies give them to employees and business contacts exchange them.
Consumption of mooncakes is thus less a reflection of whether people actually enjoy the pastries, and more a measure of the health of the Chinese economy.
In 2018, the Chinese Bakery Association predicted that sales of mooncakes would increase by 5-10%.
Who would have thought that the humble mooncake says so much about the state of China’s economy?
Why do Chinese people like the moon so much?
The moon is very significant in Chinese culture. It’s the main feature in many ancient myths and legends.
How do you say 'Mid-Autumn Festival' in Chinese?
In pinyin it’s 'zhong qiu jie' (中秋节).
How do you wish someone a happy Mid-Autumn Festival?
You can say ‘zhong qiu kuai le’ (中秋快乐). There are other festival greetings too.
What is the story behind the Mid-Autumn Festival?
According to Chinese mythology, in ancient times there were 10 suns in China. Life was very hard for people because it was so hot.
An archer named Hou Yi shot down nine of the suns. As a result, the world became a more comfortable place.
Hou Yi was given a special elixir by the Queen of Heaven. If you drank it you would immediately go to heaven and become a god or goddess.
Hou Yi chose not to drink the elixir but instead give it to his beautiful wife, Chang E. However, an evil being wanted to steal the elixir.
To protect the elixir and protect her husband’s fate, Chang E drank it.
She flew up into the sky and landed on the moon. Hou Yi grieved and mourned his wife.
Legend has it that Chang E flew to the moon to protect her husband from evil.
He yelled out her name and was amazed to see a figure appear on the moon. It was Chang E!
Since that day, Hou Yi and all the villagers began offering food to the moon, and praying for peace and good luck.
This happens every year around mid-autumn time, hence the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Should I travel in China during the Mid-Autumn Festival?
Like all holiday periods in China, the Mid-Autumn Festival is a popular time for people to travel.
It’s advisable to hold off on any non-essential travel unless you’re willing to put up with long queues and busy train stations.
Queues can be long in China, especially during holiday periods.
If you’re working as a public school teacher in China, you only get one day off so it doesn’t leave a lot of travel time anyway.
But the National Day holiday is around the same time, so you might get some extended time off.
Happy Mid-Autumn Festival everyone!
How will you be celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival this year? Please comment below.