September is a special month in Hong Kong because it sees the celebration of the annual Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival. This festival is celebrated on the 8th Full Moon in the Lunar Calendar, which usually falls around September/October in the Western calendar. This year, it is Tuesday, September 21st. We love diving into the origin stories and reasons behind important celebrations. It’s always nice to know the WHY behind the WHAT, and this festival has some beautiful 'why’s.'
Why is the Mid-Autumn Festival Celebrated?
Historically, the festival began over 2,000 years ago. It started as a post-autumn harvest celebration devoted to thanking the gods. The festival also commemorates the moon goddess Chang’e. Legend has it that Chang’e drank an elixir which made her immortal. She soared up to the moon and never returned. Many people say that there is always a jade rabbit by her side and if you look closely, you can see it’s silhouette on the surface of the moon. How is the Mid-Autumn Festival Celebrated?
Hong Kong is renowned for the elaborate celebrations that take place around the city! Here, the festivities run for about a week, and the day after the festival is a public holiday. The Mid-Autumn Festival is the second biggest traditional Chinese holiday after Chinese New Year in Hong Kong. Notwithstanding current pandemic regulations, you can usually expect thumping drums, lanterns in all shapes and colours, dragon dances and more mooncakes than you can eat.
Full Moon Day as some call it, can be likened to the American day of Thanksgiving. Here in Hong Kong, it was traditional for families to come together and offer their thanks and gratitude for the bountiful harvesting season. These days, the more common practice of celebration is for people to participate in the many lantern carnivals and celebrations around our beautiful city and then return home or to a restaurant for a family dinner. One of the more delicious traditions of the Mid-Autumn Festival are the beautiful moon-cakes available in local bakeries. A mooncake is a rich traditional Chinese pastry with a sweet filling, such as sugar and lotus seed powder. Although they are available throughout the year, during the festival, sales soar as most people reserve enjoyment of them for this time of year. Mooncakes are the most representative tradition of the festival and even those who don’t otherwise celebrate, can be seen partaking in this irresistible custom.
Gifting friends and family is another tradition celebrated at this time of year and most people will choose to send mooncakes or fruit (specifically persimmons) to their loved ones. The moon cakes are a symbolism of family reunion, and are shared equally between family members and the uniquely sweet taste of persimmons is a gesture of good wishes – for good fortune and a prosperous future.
Many couples choose to get married on the day of the Mid-autumn Festival, as the moon goddess is believed to extend a blessing of conjugal bliss t