The Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节), also called the Chinese Moon Festival, is one of the most important annual festivals for the Chinese people (in addition to the Spring Festival and Chinese New Year) and is an official holiday. Perhaps most importantly, it is a day for family reunion. This lively festival takes place on the 15th day of the 8th Chinese lunar month every year, so its exact date by the Western calendar is different every time. Full of joy and happiness, friends and loved ones gather to celebrate a time when the moon is at its fullest and brightest of the whole year, and everyone gathers together to delight in eating moon cakes and appreciating the spectacular beauty of the full moon.
In 2014, the Mid-Autumn Festival falls on September 8. Get free Chinese moon cakes by booking any tour during Chinese Moon Festival (Sep.6 - Sep. 8, 2014)!
Gazing at the Moon is an ancient tradition from the Zhou Dynasty (around 500 BC) when people held ceremonies to welcome the full moon, with huge outdoor feasts of moon cakes, watermelons, apricots, apples, grapes and other fresh fruits. The popularity of this ancient tradition began. >> more details
Top Things to Do during Chinese Moon Festival
Gazing at and Appreciating the Moon
In celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival, it is an important traditional custom for all participants to gaze at and appreciate the glorious full moon while it is at its brightest and roundest point of the whole year. This has been a classic activity since ancient times. The custom of appreciating the moon originated from a memorial ceremony that was held during which sacrifices were offered to the dear moon.
These customs started in the Wei and Jin Dynasties (220-420) and gradually became popular and prosperous in the Tang and Song Dynasties (618-1279). On that day, the people would prepare all kinds of fruits and moon cakes on tables in their courtyards while they appreciated the moon, praying for the moon to provide them with blessings.
Today, people still maintain the tradition of revering the moon during the Chinese Moon Festival. Those who are away from home and cannot typically visit their loved ones easily tend to make every effort to go back home for this festival, a rare moment when they can appreciate nature’s beauty and the joy of life with their family members who are otherwise thousands of miles away. To this day, it is believed that the moon can help send love, best wishes, and greetings to family members far away.
The most recommendable places for appreciating the moon during the Mid-Autumn Festival include Mount Lu, Mount Huang, Yangtze River, West Lake, Mount Emei, Dongting Lake, and Elephant Trunk Hill, all fine destinations found throughout China, where visitors can feast their eyes with the natural beauty and also social atmosphere around them.
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Eating Moon Cakes
Moon cakes (月饼), play a vital and significant role in the Chinese Moon Festival as an indispensable food that day. The round moon cakes, which were traditionally used as sacrificial offerings for the Moon God, are considered nowadays as symbols of family reunion.
The stuffing inside the saccharine pastries generally include pine nuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, crystal sugar, egg yolk, bean paste, lotus seed, peanuts, almonds, and many other delicacies. Blended together in various combinations, they taste rich but not. During the festival, it is also common for the Chinese to give moon cakes to their relatives and friends as presents, expressing their love and kind regards.
According to legend, eating moon cakes as a celebration originates from the Tang Dynasty. In the reign of Emperor Tang Gaozu, the great imperator Li Jing successfully squashed the Hun revolts and came back to his home on August 15 of the Chinese lunar calendar.
In celebration of his triumphant return, a businessman from Tubo offered a special kind of cake to the emperor. The emperor spoke highly of the cake and granted a share of the delights to his ministers. From then on, the eating of moon cakes and celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival have come hand in hand.
Relishing a Reunion Dinner
Besides appreciating the moon and dining on moon cakes, attending a grand family dinner with family members perhaps not seen in daily life is a most important activity for the Chinese. Family members, no matter how far away from home, will try their best to go back home and get together with their parents and extended family, and the best way to enjoy this time is by dining on a fantastic meal!
During the meal, everyone catches up with their loved ones’ lives, making the event full of love and warmth all around. Because of the deep ties to family life, the reunion dinner is one of the most beloved reasons that the Chinese celebrate the Chinese Moon Festival.
As for the dishes of this grand meal, there are some popular recommendable dishes such as crabs (best at that time of the year) and other prized seafood, taro (said to exorcise evil spirits and remove ill fortune), pumpkin (rich in vitamin A and B and is said to bring glorious health), river snails (said to contribute to brightening the eyes), steamed lotus root stuffed with sticky rice and osmanthus flower which offer a sour and sweet flavor at once, old duck soup with the seed of Job's tears (for nourishing yin , moistening dryness, and strengthen the immune system), and sticky glutinous rice dumplings in sweet rice wine (which symbolizes reunion and taste naturally sweet).
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Playing with Lanterns
The Mid-Autumn Festival ranks as one of China’s top 3 lantern festivals, even if it doesn’t boast such large-scale lantern shows such as those exhibited during the Lantern Festival. However, playing with lanterns brings great pleasure to children and families, making it the perfect pastime during this family-based holiday.
Children are particularly fond of making their own traditional lanterns, which are made of paper and contain a candle inside. There are also plastic ones available for purchase in stores in all towns and cities at this season with battery lighting. The young ones then dangle their beloved lanterns in front of them as they walk outside the evening of the Moon Festival. The streets positively light up with the glow of hundreds if not thousands of lit lanterns!
In some areas of China, people will make Kongming lanterns and then let them fly into the sky. Kongming lanterns can fly due to the burning candles’ heating of the air within the lanterns. These enchanting lanterns are believed to bring blessings and reunion.
In some area of China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, there are some even more unique and simple lanterns, such as pomelo lanterns, pumpkin lanterns, and orange lanterns. People create them by emptying pomelos, pumpkins, and oranges, then they carve out simple patterns from its skin and put a candle inside the hollowed bodies. Some children then like to put their pomelo lanterns on the river and watch them float away.
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Watching the Tidal Bore in Qiantang
In the Zhejiang Province in the east of China, watching the tidal bore ranks as a great event in celebration of the Moon Festival. The custom of watching the flood tide can date back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD), and the activity enjoyed large popularity in the Song Dynasty (960-1279).
The great Qiantang Tide in Haining of Zhejiang, which is a spectacular natural wonder in the world, boasts a tidal range of about 8.5 meters from the 15th day to the 20th day of the 8th lunar month. Thus, the Mid-Autumn Festival period is a perfect time to watch the Qiantang Tide. Each year, countless tourists from many other places travel here to watch the flooding of the Qiantang Tide.
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Watching the Fiery Dragon Dance in Hong Kong
The hosting of fiery dragon dances is a very traditional characteristic custom during the Mid-Autumn Festival in Hong Kong, with a history of over 100 years. Each year, beginning from the 14th day of the 8th lunar month, there are grand dragon dance activities in Tai Hang in Causeway Bay, lasting for 3 nights. The fiery dragon is made with several main materials. The 70-meter-long dragon consists of 32 sections, which are divided by pearl grass, and its body is stuck with longevity joss sticks.
The night of the festival, all the wide streets and narrow lanes of this area are jubilant and boisterous with winding fiery dragons dancing energetically in the light, bouncing to the dragon drum music. More than 30,000 performers take turns to perform the dragon dance, considered an honor. People believe that the dragon dance can lead to good fortune and avoid disaster, not to mention auspicious for a good harvest year.
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Traveling in China during Mid-Autumn Festival
Transport during Chinese Moon Festival
Every year, several days before and after the Mid-Autumn Festival, millions of Chinese people who live away from home usually return home for a family reunion. These mass commutes typically bring many inconveniences and complications to transportation and accommodation. Thus, if you choose to travel during this period, you need to make adequate preparations before the trip. This includes booking tickets and hotels several days in advance.
Then especially in , the Mid-Autumn Festival holiday directly corresponds with China's National Day holiday which is an additional peak traveling period in China when hotels raise prices and booking train flight tickets is very difficult. In short, traveling to China during this period may be much more inconvenient and difficult than usual, so if you do not like large crowds or lines, it may be best to reconsider your schedule for visiting the country.
What to pack?
While traveling to China during the Mid-Autumn Festival, you need to bring long-sleeved coats and even sweaters to some areas in the north of China. It is usual to feel cool in the day and cold at night. In central China, bring long-sleeved coats and pants, for it is warm in the day and a slightly cool at night. In the south of China, due to the generally warm weather, you only need to wear shorts and short-sleeved shirts. There may be some rainfall in some areas, thus an umbrella may become useful.
Be careful of Poisonous Snakes and Noxious Insects Outdoors
Travelers who enjoy natural beauty should be careful of snakes during this holiday time because they come out frequently in autumn. Snakes like to lurk in dense bushes, grasslands, narrow stone crevices, or by the river. If you touch them inadvertently, they will attack you. Thus, be extremely careful when you pass these areas where snakes prefer to reside. If you are attacked by a poisonous snake, squeeze out the venom and promptly go to a doctor.
The autumn is also a top time for insects to come out to give out bites that may burn or itch afterwards, another reason why long sleeves and covered protection is a good idea.
Be Careful of Pollen Allergies
In autumn, a number of allergic diseases and respiratory illnesses may be caused by pollen of flowers and other plants. According to clinical medicine, there are over 200 kinds of pollen that can induce illnesses such as allergies, bronchial asthma, rhinitis, pharyngitis, headaches, dizziness, and hypertension. Thus, when traveling in nature in the season of the Mid-Autumn Festival, pay extreme attention to the air. Do not pick these unknown wild flowers, and if you are highly allergic to pollen, you need to wear a respirator.
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Send Mid-Autumn Festival Cards to Your Friends
Recommended China Autumn Tours
Book any China tour during Chinese Moon Festival (Sep.6 - Sep. 8, 2014) and enjoy free Chinese moon cake!
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