One of the premier events in Chinese and Vietnamese cultures (second only to the Spring Festival), the Mid-Autumn Festival, takes place on the 15th day of the 8th month according to the Chinese lunar calendar. If you (like me) need help figuring that out, this year it falls on September 26-27. The Mid-Autumn festival is also known as the Moon Festival (or Mooncake Festival – more on that in a moment) because it takes place at the time of the year when the moon is at its fullest and brightest. This time of year also corresponds with harvest season. Here are three ways to celebrate the vibrant and fascinating annual Mid-Autumn Festival.
Mooncakes have become such an important part of the Mid-Autumn Festival that many people now refer to it as the Mooncake Festival. During this time, people purchase (or make) mooncakes to give to friends and family. Mooncakes are round, like the moon, which symbolizes reunion. They are as delicious as they are beautiful, made from sweet red bean paste and a golden crust imprinted with the Chinese characters for “longevity” or “harmony.”
During the festival, beautiful paper lanterns are made and lit in honor of the legend of Chang-e, The Goddess on the Moon. Chang-e lives on the moon her husband, Houyi, cannot leave the Earth. The two can only be reunited during the full moon, when they can more easily cross the Milky Way. The people on Earth need to hold lanterns to show Chang-e where Houyi is crossing the Milky Way. Traditional lanterns are pink, blue, yellow and green paper lanterns that contain candles and are decorated by red tassels that hang down from them. Many Mid-Autumn celebrations include lantern decorating and organized lantern walks as part of the festivities.
Attend a Festival Celebration
To truly experience the beauty of the mid-autumn festival, you must attend a festival celebration. The Hong Kong Mid-Autumn Festival provides the opportunity to experience both traditional and contemporary Chinese dance and music performances, see dazzling lantern displays, and stroll through the bazaar selling traditional food (including a variety of flavors and styles of mooncakes) and handicrafts. The Hong Kong Mid-Autumn Festival does a great job of merging traditional elements with innovative touches. Tet Trung Thu, the Vietnamese Mid-Autumn Festival, is celebrated in style in the historic town of Hoi An. One of the most captivating parts of this celebration is the lion dancing. In the evenings leading up to and during the festival, groups of children and teenagers dress as lions and dance in the streets and in front of local businesses.