A Gweilo’s Guide to Mid-Autumn Festival, Celebrating Good Harvest
September 14, 2023
Whether you dropped down in the Victoria Harbour 25 years ago with eternal hope of your new home, or recently found yourself thriving in the Pearl of the Orient, you may still have not shaken that classic Gweilo identity and perspective of Hong Kong.
Are you not fully clued up on what our Chinese festivals mean or what to do for Hong Kong’s big calendar events? We’re here to help with our Gweilo’s Guide!
What is Mid-Autumn Festival?
The Mid-Autumn Festival, also familiarly called the Moon Festival or Mooncake Festival, holds a revered spot in Chinese culture. Taking place on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunisolar calendar, it coincides with harvest time when the Moon gleams at its brightest.
This time of year evokes a profound sense of unity with family meeting to celebrate, mirroring the full moon's roundness and brilliance.
Why do we celebrate Autumn Festival, and what’s the meaning behind it?
The festival weaves in three core concepts of gathering, thanksgiving, and praying. These values find a delicious manifestation in mooncakes, rich pastries that symbolise unity and completeness. Filled with delectable fillings like sweet-bean, egg yolk, or lotus-seed paste, they are shared among family and friends, strengthening bonds and celebrating the harvest.
The spectacle isn't just confined to indulgent bites. Lanterns illuminate the city at night, acting as symbolic beacons guiding people towards prosperity and good fortune. These vibrant lights embody the festival's bright spirit, illuminating the road ahead with hope, warmth, and unity.
Why do we eat mooncakes during Mid-Autumn Festival?
Just like the roundness of the full moon symbolises family unity and completeness in Chinese culture, the round shape of mooncakes represents wholeness and reunion. Families come together during the festival, sharing mooncakes like the sweet blessings of life.
According to a popular legend during the Mongol rule in the Yuan dynasty (1279–1368), the Han Chinese used mooncakes to hide and pass along secret messages to coordinate a rebellion against the Mongols. The messages were concealed within the cakes, and this subterfuge led to the successful uprising on the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival. As a result, mooncakes are associated with this significant historical event.
Are there specific cultural celebrations, things we wear or need to eat during Mid-Autumn Festival?
It's traditional for families and friends to gather under the open sky to admire the beauty of the full moon, which symbolises unity and completeness. Poetic recitals about the moon are also common during these gatherings.
Drinking tea, especially under the moonlight, is also a traditional practice during the Mid-Autumn Festival. This complements the moon-gazing activity and offers a serene and contemplative ambiance.
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