Celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival in China

This year, China’s Mid-Autumn Festival takes place on September 15th, as it always falls on the 15th day of the 8th month according to the Chinese lunar calendar. Second only in grandeur to China’s Spring Festival, this event lasts two days and is highlighted by traditional folk customs of the Chinese people.

Also known as the Moon Festival because the moon is so round and bright, the Mid-Autumn Festival has been celebrated since as far back as the Zhou Dynasty (1046 – 256 BC) most notably by the royal class on the Autumnal Equinox. Through later dynasties such as the Sui (581 – 618 AD) and Tang (618 – 907 AD), it became more of a moon sacrificial ceremony that wasn’t strictly held on the Autumnal Equinox. They chose the closest full moon day to the Autumnal Equinox, August 15th of the Chinese lunar calendar, instead. Ancient Chinese people recognized that the moon’s movements were closely related to the changes of the seasons as well as agricultural production, according to China Travel Guide. To offer thanks and celebrate the bounty, they offered a sacrifice to the moon in autumn.

There are many customs associated with this day. Family members and friends come together to appreciate the moon’s role in their harvest, eating moon cakes (round pastries with thick fillings), playing with and flying kongming lanterns, and performing dragon and lion dances. The moon cake is one of the more important parts of the Mid-Autumn Festival and is a popular way to celebrate. The Chinese offer moon cakes as a sacrifice and eat them together in celebration. They are round to symbolize the reunion of a family, acting as an expression of longing for distant relatives and friends. Presenting someone with a moon cake can also mean the giver wishes the recipient a long and happy life.

Moon cakes are a wheat flour pastry filled with nuts, red beans, lotus seeds, fruits or eggs. They are typically served in small wedges along with Chinese tea. Other popular foods to eat during the mid-Autumn Festival include pumpkin, pomelo, duck and wine. This celebration has spread in one form or another to neighboring countries like Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, The Philippines, and South Korea.

Most people celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival at home under the bright full moon. Others participate within parties, festivals, and outdoor gatherings at ancient man-made sites, natural scenic areas, and countrysides. In addition, department stores capitalize on the Mid-Autumn Festival by decorating their stores and offering discounts and sales. This is because many Chinese people give small gifts to their family members on this day each year.

If you’ll be visiting China during the Mid-Autumn Festival, brush up on your Mandarin Chinese with BRIC Language Systems!