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What Is the Chinese Moon Festival and How to Celebrate It

The Moon Festival is the second-biggest event of the year in China, after the Spring Festival. (Image: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain)
The Moon Festival is the second-biggest event of the year in China, after the Spring Festival. (Image: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain)

Have you heard of the Moon Festival? If you’re not Chinese, you may not know what the Moon Festival is. I remember when I lived in Sydney, I received a lot of mooncakes at that time, but never really knew the significance of the day.

The Moon Festival is actually the second biggest festival of the year in China, after the Spring festival. Each year, the Moon Festival falls on the 15th day of the eighth month according to the Chinese lunar calendar. This year, it falls on September 15. It is also called the Mid-Autumn Festival, as it falls in the middle of autumn. At this time of year, the moon is at its roundest and fullest.

There is a Chinese saying about the Moon Festival that when the moon is at its fullest, people come together.

History and customs

Celebration of the Moon Festival dates back 3,000 years when the ancient Chinese observed that the movement of the moon had a close relationship with changes of the seasons, and agricultural production. In order to show thanks to the moon, and celebrate the harvest, they offered a sacrifice to the moon on autumn days.

Lanterns are a common decoration during the Moon Festival. (Image: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain)

Lanterns are a common form of decoration during the Moon Festival. (Image: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain)

These days, the customs people follow include eating mooncakes, having dinner with families, going to the park to see the decorations, making lanterns — and floating them down the river or flying them in the air — burning incense, drinking osmanthus tea, and watching fireworks.

Watch this funny video about spreading customs of the Moon Festival:

Mooncakes

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Mooncakes are given as gifts during the Moon Festival. (Image: Kansir via Compfight cc)

The tradition of eating food during the moon festival is, quite fittingly, to eat mooncakes — which are a Chinese pastry consisting of different kinds of fillings. The traditional flavors are red bean (my favorite) and lotus seed. They have more modern flavors, like five kernel, roast pork, fruit, vegetable, chocolate, green tea, ice cream, cream cheese, and seafood.

They have a round shape, and roundness symbolizes completeness and togetherness in Chinese culture. Eating mooncakes at this time symbolizes the unity of the family. They are available a month before the festival, and are given as gifts to family — and friends.

Greetings and sayings

If you want to wish your Chinese friends a Happy Mid-Autumn Festival, start memorizing this phrase:

Zhōng qiū kuài lè, which is pronounced as jong-chyoh-kweye-ler!

Or you can say:

  • Wish you and your family a happy Mid-Autumn Festival — zhù nǐ hé nǐ de jiā rén zhōng qiū kuài lè.
  • Wishing us a long life to share the graceful moonlight, though thousands of miles apart — dàn yuàn rén cháng jiǔ, qiān lǐ gòng chán juān
  • A bright moon, and stars twinkle, and shine. Wishing you a merry Mid-Autumn Festival, bliss, and happiness — hào yuè shǎn shuò, xīng guāng shǎn yào, zhōng qiū jiā jié, měi mǎn kuài lè!

Get into the spirit of the festival, and find yourself some mooncakes.

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One Good Turn Deserves Another
Legend of the Moon Festival, Also Known as the Mid-Autumn Festival