Mid-Autumn Festival is considered the second most important festival of the year in China after Chinese New Year. The holiday occurs annually as a harvest festival during the full moon on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the Chinese calendar. In 2017, that day is Wednesday, October 4. Here’s a round-up of the events and activities taking place in Hong Kong this year to celebrate this important holiday.
Why is Mid-Autumn Festival celebrated?
Mid-Autumn Festival has a history dating back 3,000 years since the early Tang dynasty (618–907). It’s sometimes called ‘moon festival’, as it is celebrated on the closest full moon day of the autumn equinox.
The round shape of the full moon symbolises unity in Chinese culture, which is the main sentiment behind Mid-Autumn Festival. The festival is celebrated as a time of family reunion and peace – akin to America’s Thanksgiving holiday. Traditionally, families will come together to eat dinner, hang lanterns, eat mooncakes and attend special holiday events that, in Hong Kong, often include lantern carnivals and traditional dragon and lion dances.
Lantern displays and carnivals
Lanterns play a big role in Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations. Families will make colourful lanterns and hang them outside. These lanterns traditionally came about as a need for light as Mid-Autumn Festival events occur in the evening in order to admire the moon fully.
Across Hong Kong, several lantern exhibitions and carnivals are held in celebration of Mid-Autumn Festival starting a few days before the festival and running a few days after. These displays are free to the public. The main one is the Mid-Autumn Urban Carnival at Victoria Park. This is the city’s biggest carnival honouring the festival and includes the lantern displays and a full cultural programme including a Fire Dragon Dance, kung fu demonstrations, folk songs and crafts.
October 4 2017, 8pm–11pm, Victoria Park, Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, there is also the Mid-Autumn Thematic Lantern Display at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Piazza in Tsim Sha Tsui. This year the lantern display theme is ‘Enchanted Blossom under the Moon’. There will also be lantern carnivals at Sha Tin Park and Tsing Yi Park.
September 22 to October 15 2017, 6.30pm–11pm Hong Kong Cultural Centre Piazza.
Fire Dragon Dance
Another highlight of the festival in Hong Kong is the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance Parade. In the 19th century, the people of Tai Hang were able to put an end to a run of bad luck and stop a plague from destroying their village with a fire dragon dance, which has become a tradition ever since. This year, a 67-metre fire dragon will wind through the streets of Tai Hang with over 300 performers, 70,000 incense sticks and lots of firecrackers.
October 3–6 2017, 8.15pm–10.30pm, Tai Hang, Causeway Bay.
If you’re in Hong Kong during the Mid-Autumn Festival period, you’re sure to come across plenty of adverts and displays for mooncakes. As a celebration of the full moon, the holiday is spent sharing moon-shaped cakes. These Chinese pastries are believed to have originated from revolutionaries of the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368), who are said to have used the cakes to pass secret messages to each other.
Traditionally, mooncakes are made with salted duck egg yolks and lotus seed paste. However, these days, you can find a whole variety of different fillings: egg custard, chocolate, ice cream, fruit, spices, tea or even infused with alcohol. Enjoy!