The Mid-Autumn Festival is a traditional festival that’s celebrated in various regions of Eastern and Southeastern Asia. Also known as a Mooncake Festival or Moon Festival, this holiday is observed in Mainland China, Macau, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand. This holiday is observed on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunisolar calendar that also has a full moon. This means that this holiday is celebrated sometime between mid-September to early October. This is a holiday on which friends and family gather together with one another to give thanks for the harvest, to give thanks for harmonious unions, and to pray for help for family members.
The History Of Mid Autumn Festival
This holiday has been celebrated for at least 3,600 years. It was initially celebrated as a harvest festival during the Shang Dynasty. For various indigenous groups living in ancient China, the harvest time commemorated the dragon that brought rain for their crops. At this time, this holiday wasn’t widespread all across Asia, and it wouldn’t be until during the 7th century that the celebration began to be observed as a festival celebrated throughout Asia. According to legend, Emperor Xuanzong of Tang began to hold formal celebrations of this holiday in his palace.
Although early celebrations of this holiday were very much concerned with moon worship, the modern practice of this holiday and the associated festival has more to do with the autumnal harvest. It became a time to enjoy the successful harvest of wheat and rice. While at one point it may have been traditional to make offerings of wheat and rice to the moon, now people enjoy moon cakes, enjoy the moon, and enjoy their festival of harmony and unity.
Other Names For The Mid-Autumn Festival
This holiday goes by a variety of names all over the world and even has several different names inside of China alone. Below are some of the other names that are used for this holiday in parts of Asia. The Mid-Autumn Festival is what this holiday and festival are called in English.
- Lantern Festival
- Reunion Festival
- Zhōngqiū Jié
- Jūng-chāu Jit
- Tết Trung Thu
- Moon Festival
- Harvest Moon Festival
Mid-Autumn Festival Observations
One of the main practices observed during this festival is the use of lanterns. Brightly lit lanterns are carried and placed on towers. People also light sky lanterns and set them aloft. Another common tradition is the practice of lantern riddles. This is when people write riddles on lanterns and other people try to solve them.
Although early traditions of the Mid-Autumn Festival didn’t involve the use of lanterns, it’s believed that they were added because lanterns symbolize fertility. As China began to evolve from an agriculturally based country to a more modernized country, other traditions began to be added to this festival. And lanterns represent just one of the symbols burrowed from other festivals.
Lanterns aren’t just an important symbol used in Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations in China but are also used in Vietnamese celebrations. In Vietnam, children engage in the parade with lanterns of various sizes, shapes, and colors. Sometimes they even wear elaborate masks made out of paper-mache.
Another common part of this festival is the making and sharing of moon cakes. In Asian cultures, the round shape of these moon cakes symbolizes completeness. In some parts of China, there’s a tradition of making these moon cakes during the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival. Of course, moon cakes aren’t the only foods made and consumed on this holiday. People also make food offerings to deities placed on courtyard altars—foods that include pears, grapes, peaches, melons, or oranges. In Vietnam, cakes and fruits are made into elaborate displays of familiar or mythological animals such as dogs, cats, and unicorns.
Another purpose of this holiday is to celebrate marriages or wish for the moon deity to fulfill a person’s romantic desires. In many parts of China, dances are held for young men and women so they can find partners. In Vietnam, this holiday is also used for its match-making potential with many young women and men using the festival as a way to meet future husbands and wives.
There are also a variety of games that are played on this day. One game is called Ascent to Heaven. Other games include Descent into the Garden and Descent of the Eight Immortals. Children will often place a game called Circling The Toad. This game involves a group of people forming a circle around a child that has been chosen to be the Toad King—a child that’s been turned into a toad using magic. He then jumps around until the water is sprinkled on his head and he’s turned back into a child.
When is Mid-Autumn Festival?
|This year (2023)||September 29 (Friday)||Multiple dates - more|
|Next year (2024)||September 17 (Tuesday)||Multiple dates - more|
|Last year (2022)||September 10 (Saturday)||Multiple dates - more|