Mid-Autumn Festival

It’s that time of year and the Mid-Autumn Festival is upon us again. So ready your lantern’s and lay out your mooncakes, for it is time to gaze at the moon, celebrate the coming harvests and all things lunar! 

The Mid-Autumn Festival also known as Moon Festival or Mooncake Festival, is a traditional Chinese festival celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunisolar calendar or the 21st September this year on the Gregorian calendar.

The full Moon (Harvest Moon in the West) actually falls on September 20th, but appears to be full for about three days at this time of year.

For Hong Kong though, Mid-Autumn is the second-most important holiday after Chinese New Year and has a history dating back over 3,000 year to the Shang Dynasty, when the Emperor of China worshipped the moon for bountiful harvests.

The Mid-Autumn Festival then became an official celebration during the Tang Dynasty, when the emperors would host a feast to make offerings to the moon in celebration of the year’s harvest.

Over time many traditions evolved around the festival and as well as giving thanks to the moon praying for better luck, fortune and fertility were added with families coming together to celebrate and admire the moon in its full glory.

There are also many myths and legends behind Mid-Autumn Festival, with most well-known being around an archer hero named Hou Yi, and his wife Chang’e.

As the legend goes, Hou Yi was rewarded with an elixir of immortality after shooting down nine out of the ten suns that ravaged the land with drought and disaster.

However, when Hou Yi’s apprentice attempted to steal the elixir, Chang’e stopped him by drinking the elixir herself. After doing so, she became immortal and floated to the moon, never to be seen by her beloved husband again.

After learning what had happened to Chang’e, Hou Yi would prepare a feast on this day every year, hoping to catch a glimpse of his wife’s shadow in the moon.

One of the oldest traditions of the Mid-Autumn Festival are its lanterns and for hundreds of years people would get together during the festival to write wishes on sky lanterns, then light them to send them skyward to honour the goddess of the moon Chang’e. Hoping that she would bless her them with luck.

Equally as important as the lanterns is the ‘Moon Gazing’ and there are three important days to gaze at the moon: the eve of the Mid-Autumn Festival to welcome the moon, on the day of the festival to admire the moon and the following day, to send off the moon.

This annual affair remains a popular tradition and every year with families, friends and couples flocking to the best spots in town to admire the moon.

No Mid-Autumn would of course be complete without tray or two of Mooncakes, the festivals snack of choice that is traditionally made with lotus seed paste and a salted egg yolk.

Moon cakes are said to have originated during the Yuan Dynasty, when revolutionaries used the cakes as a way to pass covert messages hidden inside them. Nowadays though, mooncakes symbolise togetherness and harmony, with an overwhelming variety of flavours to choose from.

Mooncakes are traditionally eaten in small wedges with families or friends during the night of Mid-Autumn, often served with tea or wine. However, it has also become customary for businesses to present them to their clients as presents, fuelling a demand for high-end mooncakes in these modern times.

Lantau is of course a cracking place to be for all facets of the Mid-Autumn Festival. With many a spot to enjoy your Moon Gazing from, villages festooned with colourful lanterns and local bakeries for your favourite flavour of Mooncake.

The Lantau Mid-Autumn must do though, is to take an evening visit to enjoy the hundreds of handmade lanterns of all shapes and sizes, that light up the waterways and streets of Hong Kong’s last stilted fishing village – Tai O.

Organised annually by the community art group, Tai O Fei Mao Li, the festival runs until the end of the month.

However, unfortunately due to so many of Hong Kong big Mid-Autumn events being cancelled due to the pandemic, the village has been swamped and the organisers are suspending the lantern lighting on 21, 22, 27 and 28 Sept.

Fair enough really, as it is being done to allow the residents of Tai O to celebrate and enjoy a peaceful festival with their families and friends.

Enjoy your Mid-Autumn then however and wherever you spend it and be sure to make the most of that public holiday on Wednesday…

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