Mid-Autumn Festival

Mid-Autumn Festival - Tuesday, October 1, 2024

Cultural Chinese

What has three names and celebrates the moon? China’s Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival or Harvest Moon Festival, is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar — or October 1 this year. 

We know what you’re thinking. Why does the Mid-Autumn Festival take place in late summer? Because China follows the ancient lunar calendar — and the seventh, eighth and ninth lunar months are classified as autumn.  The festival, marking the end of the autumn harvest, occurs during the middle of autumn when the moon is at its fullest.

Moon worship has been an integral part of Chinese culture for  centuries. Families gather for celebrations, to eat dinner and share “moon cakes” as a way to thank the moon for a good harvest.

Mid-Autumn Festival timeline

1045 - 221 BC

Zhou Dynasty emperors pay homage

During the autumnal equinox, Chinese royalty offer sacrifices to the Moon Goddess but an actual festival didn't exist at that time.

618 – 907

Moon magic

Taking their cue from the royal class, merchants and commoners hold nightly celebrations in honor of the moon with dancing, wine-drinking and merriment.

960 - 1279

The lunar calendar sets the date for the moon festival during the Northern Song Dynasty

By this time, the Moon Festival had become a popular folk festival that always took place during the 15th day of the eighth lunar month as designated in the lunar calendar.

1279 – 1368

Moon cakes appear with a dual purpose

During the Yuan Dynasty, which was ruled by the Mongols, the tradition of eating moon cakes starts out with the delicacies stuffed with messages relayed among those fighting against the Mongols.

1368 – 1912

During the Ming and Qing, the Mid-Autumn festival reaches its peak

The Mid-Autumn Festival becomes a firm part of Chinese culture, making it second only to the festivities surrounding Chinese New Year.

5 Reasons To Put China's Mid-Autumn Festival On Your Calendar

  1. It's celebrated outside of mainland China

    People in Hong Kong, Macau, and Vietnam also celebrate this festival.

  2. Moon cakes come in all sizes

    In 2013, the world's largest moon cake was wider than a king-size bed and weighed more than a car.

  3. It was like Valentine's Day in ancient China

    The "old man in the moon" was said to act as a matchmaker hooking up singles who needed to find mates and romance.

  4. A touch of the digital age

    Instead of giving moon cakes, Chinese updated the festival tradition by using wi-fi to distribute "digital red envelopes" filled with "lucky money" for friends and family.

  5. Book your train ticket early

    Since the Mid-Autumn Festival covers three days, train seats sell out quickly so get yours as soon as possible!

Mid-Autumn Festival Activities

  1. Munch on moon cakes

    Moon cakes are extra special Chinese pastries shared among family and friends during the Mid-Autumn or Moon Festival. If you're the family chef, make these delicacies with a variety of fillings. But if eating is all you really want to do, sample some moon cakes stuffed with lotus paste and salted egg yolk or date paste, fruits, nuts or seeds. Tasty!

  2. Hang paper lanterns

    In China, you know it's time for a festival when you see beautiful paper lanterns everywhere you look. This year during the Mid-Autumn Festival, criss-cross your backyard with googobs of fancy paper lanterns. Then, invite friends over for moon cakes and fun!

  3. Make your house The Spot for the festival

    This year, your house is Party Central for the Mid-Autumn Festival. The nights should be warm enough for moon gazing and the days should be filled with delicious food and the comings and goings of family and friends.

Why We Love Mid-Autumn Festival

  1. It's a moon thang

    There's something mysterious, poetic and powerful about this silver orb that has inspired cultures all over the world. As an agrarian society for centuries, China's farmers were beholden to the elements, including the moon, for a plentiful harvest.

  2. It's a time for gratitude

    Giving thanks for a bountiful harvest brings family and friends together during the Mid-Autumn Festival. Even if you're not a farmer, this festival reminds everyone to count their blessings. But it doesn't hurt to enjoy the earthly pleasures of delicious food, decorative lanterns, rousing music and loads of fun.

  3. It's okay to be Number Two

    The Mid-August Festival is the second largest in the country after Chinese New Year. Attendees enjoy festivities during the day and non-stop partying at night. Who says being Number Two is lame?

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