With the Mid-Autumn Festival (also known as the Moon or Mooncake Festival) right around the corner, we wanted to look at some of the history and traditions that are celebrated during this period. As it is an important time to come together as a family, we have also included some of the best spots to visit in Hong Kong, where everyone can get into the Mid-Autumn mood!
The Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the well celebrated festive events in the Chinese calendar - almost on par with Chinese New Year. According to the Chinese lunisolar calendar, the night of the festival is always lit up by a full moon and the Chinese believe that this is when the moon is at its biggest and brightest - hence why the festival is sometimes called the ‘Moon Festival.’
The Legend of Mid-Autumn Festival
The story of how this festival came into being stems from the legend of Chang’e, the Moon Goddess. Legend has it that there was a hero named Hou-Yi, who had a beautiful wife named Chang’e. One year, ten suns rose in the sky, causing mayhem and destruction to earth where Hou-Yi bravely shot down nine of the ten suns, leaving one to provide the people with light. In recognition of his actions, an immortal sent him an immortality elixir. However, Hou-Yi refused to drink it, as he did not want to leave Chang’e on earth without him. Eventually, one of Hou-Yi’s apprentices discovered the elixir and decided to try to steal it, soin order to stop him, Chang’e drank the elixir and ended up becoming immortal. As she didn’t want to leave her husband, she chose to live on the moon to be as close to him as possible. From that day on, Hou Yi would place small cakes and fruits out as offerings to Chang’e. As his neighbours saw what he was doing, they too followed suit. Eventually this became a yearly tradition - becoming the Mid-Autumn Festival.
There are many different traditions and celebrations associated with the Mid-Autumn Festival. Here are some of the most common ones:
These are a staple of the Mid-Autumn Festival, with people placing their mooncake orders weeks before the festival even begins to ensure that they have enough for family. Many people will also make their own mooncakes together at home. The roundness of the cake is a symbol of completeness in Chinese culture, so when eaten with family, it symbolises coming and unity together. Fillings for mooncakes vary but popular flavours include lotus paste, red bean, salted egg yolks and nuts. In Hong Kong, MX (Maxim’s) Mooncakes are probably the most popular brand around. Their award-winning lava custard mooncakes sell out almost every year, with loyal customers clearing shelves as soon as they become available. However, there are such a wide variety of brands and flavours to choose from - there’s sure to be one that suits everyone’s tastes.
During the Mid-Autumn Festival, the city’s streets are lit up by lanterns of all shapes, sizes, and colours. Lanterns are hung to symbolise good fortune and family reunion. Normally made of thin bamboo strips covered in coloured tissue paper, these lanterns can take the shape of fish, fruit, birds and more.
Visit: Yuen Long ‘Lantern Street’
Yuen Long’s Tai Kiu Market is adorned with beautiful handmade lanterns at this time of year. Hundreds of people flock to the market to get their hands on a lantern, as well as snap a picture with the colourful lanterns. Take a stroll through the market to admire the displays and pick one up yourself.
Taking a stroll in the moonlight
It is said that the moon is closest to the earth on the day of the festival and at its biggest and brightest. For thousands of years, people would take moonlight walks to admire the moon during Mid-Autumn, now it has become a yearly tradition. With a beautiful full moon out, taking a stroll to admire the moon with your family and friends is the perfect way to celebrate.
Visit: Tai Po - the Lake House in Tai Po Kau
The Lake House in Tai Po is a perfect spot to visit to really get into the Mid-Autumn mood. From September 2 to 12, a gigantic rabbit light and inflatable moon installation will light up the area each night. You can also take a paddle boat tour on the lake to see the full moon or participate in other seasonal activities.
Worshipping the moon
This is another tradition that has been practised for thousands of years. People would often set up a table facing the moon to pay their respects to the moon goddess. Incense and red candles would be lit, offerings of mooncakes, watermelon, red dates, plums and more would be left as a tribute to the goddess, whilst families gathered together to pray for blessings.
Finally, as an analogue media digitisation company, Capture.HK suggests that you can bring out your old family photos to relive the good old days as a family tradition during the Mid-Autumn Festival. We wish you a happy Mid-Autumn Festival and a happy family reunion!
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