The Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival is a harvest festival, celebrated in most East Asian countries and takes places on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the Chinese calendar. This year it falls on Wednesday 4th October.
It is the second most important festival in China after Chinese New Year and to the Chinese, the festival means family reunion and peace. It is also called “the moon festival” as it is celebrated when the moon is believed to be the biggest and fullest.
Chinese people celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival with many traditional and meaningful activities, such as eating dinner with family, hanging lanterns, guessing lantern riddles, and worshipping the moon.
New celebrations have developed in recent years. The younger generations prefer travelling, surfing the web and using smart phone apps to celebrate with their families.
Harvest Moon Obsession — Reunion and Expectation
Since ancient times, there have been many legends about the moon in China. For the Chinese, the moon is symbolized as being holy, pure, and noble. Over tens of thousands of poems describing the moon have been recorded.
The moon’s round shape also corresponds to the cyclic concepts of Taoism, like the eight diagrams.
That’s why Chinese people are fixated on the moon and view round shapes as representing perfection.
A box of mooncakes is more expensive than an iPhone! When people mention China’s Mid-Autumn Festival, the first image many conjure up in their minds is that of a mooncake.
Chinese mooncakes not only have a long history, but also have numerous flavors. In addition to traditional fillings, such as lotus root, melon seeds, and fruit, there are some bizarre recipes, such as chocolate spicy beef filling, leek filling, and fermented bean curd filling.
With different packaging, a mooncake ranges in price from a few dozen yuan to a few thousand yuan, even though a normal mooncake’s cost is very cheap. These high-end mooncakes have become luxurious presents between bureaucrats over the past few years.
Millions Go Home or Travel
As the second most important traditional festival in China, the crowds traveling during the Mid-Autumn Festival should not be underestimated, although they can’t compare to the travel rush during the Spring Festival, the largest annual migration in the world. In 2008, the Mid-Autumn Festival was approved as a statutory holiday and people were granted a three-day holiday.
Most people choose to go home for a reunion or go travelling, which normally causes transport stress. It’s not unusual to end up sitting in the car all day on the highway during this holiday in China.
WeChat Red Envelopes — Money Rather Than Gifts
The most popular greeting nowadays in China is the WeChat red envelope, which is a mobile application allowing users to send or receive money online. During the Mid-Autumn Festival Gala on CCTV, viewers are invited to shake their smartphones for a chance to win red envelopes.
People usually attach a few words as a greeting when sending a red envelope. In addition, Chinese people prefer red envelopes containing the number 6 or 8. For example, sending a 666 yuan red envelope means everything will be fine for you and ‘888’ means hoping you could make a fortune.
As Chinese netizens stated, “There’s nothing in the world that cannot be solved by a red envelope; if there were, then two should do it!”
Matchmaking Time — Fast-Food Style Relationship
Many urban parks in China have a matchmaking corner. Visitors can see hundreds, sometimes thousands, of older parents and pensioners gathered there. They are there to exchange information about their children who are still unmarried, hoping to find them an ideal spouse.
In China, many people consider a girl to be “leftover” if she is not married by the time she is 25. A man is normally considered this at 30. Their parents want to see them marry and the three-day vacation of the Mid-Autumn Festival is a great chance for them to have a blind date at their parents’ request.
Family Dinner — Difficult to Book a Seat
The Mid-Autumn Festival carries themes of reunification and strengthening family relationships, so a family dinner is essential to the Mid-Autumn Festival. A traditional dinner in China normally means several hours of preparation.
Since the Festival is only a three-day break, people no longer make dishes at home but book a meal in a restaurant instead to save time and spend more time with their family.
Normally, people will make a reservation and confirm the menu one or two months in advance. But for some famous restaurants, people make reservations just after the Spring Festival!
The Mid-Autumn Festival was around long before mooncakes!
The Chinese have celebrated the harvest during the autumn full moon since the Shang Dynasty (1600–1046 BC). It started to gain popularity as a festival during the early Tang Dynasty (618–907) while the tradition of eating mooncakes during the festival began in the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368), a dynasty ruled by the Mongols.