Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival

Introduction

Originated in Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 AD), the Mid-Autumn Festival is the second important traditional festival in China. It’s a time of family reunion which makes the festival also known as the Reunion Festival. On the Mid-Autumn Festival night, the moon is full and bright. So it is called the Moon Festival as well.

In 2008, it was recognized as a traditional and statutory holiday in China. On May 20th, 2006, it was listed into the National Intangible Cultural Heritage items.

Fast Facts about Mid-Autumn Festival

Chinese Name: 中秋节Zhōngqiū Jié
Alternative Names: Moon Festival, Mooncake Festival, Reunion Festival, Chinese Thanksgiving Day
Date: Aug.15th (Chinese Lunar Calendar)
Festival Type: Traditional Chinese Festival
Countries to Celebrate: China, Vietnam, South Korea, Japan, North Korea
Origin: Moon worship
Traditions and Customs: Admiring and worshiping the full moon, Eating mooncakes, Having dinner with family, Playing lanterns
Festival Food: Mooncake, Cassia wine
Significance: Family Reunion, Celebrating the end of the autumn harvest

Date and Holiday Durations

The Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the eighth month on the Chinese lunar calendar (in September or early October in the Gregorian calendar). The Chinese people will have one day off to celebrate the festival. As it is usually combined with the weekend, people can have three days off for the holiday. The following chart shows the exact times for the festival and holiday durations from 2017 to 2020:
Year Date of The Mid-Autumn Festival Holiday Durations (Mainland China)
2017 Oct.4th Oct. 4 (It is within the
National Day holiday from Oct. 1 to 7 and prolongs the holiday to Oct. 8)
2018 September 24th September 22 - 24
2019 September 13th September 13 - 15
2020 Oct.1st Oct.1st - 7th
Note: Different from the people in mainland China, people in Hong Kong and Macau celebrate the festival on the 16th day of the eighth month on the Chinese lunar calendar and enjoy one day off for the festival.

Origin and History

There are many sayings about the origin of the Mid-Autumn Festival. One said it was originated from the worship of the moon by the emperor during the Spring and Autumn Period (770 - 476 BC). Later it was followed by the common people. Another think its religion is related to the agriculture. Autumn is a harvest season. So, farmers set the middle day of the August as the day to celebrate the harvest. As August is the middle month of the Autumn according to the Chinese lunar calendar, the day is called Mid-autumn Festival.

The festival was set as a fixed festival in the early Tang Dynasty, and begins to be very prevalent in Song (960 - 1279 AD), Ming (1368 - 1644 AD) and Qing (1644 - 1911 AD) Dynasties. Since those times, people have begun to celebrate it by appreciating the full silver moon and eating moon cakes. You can see many poets about the moon were created during those times.

Traditions and Customs

Chinese people regard the festival as an important day for family reunion. People from far away will try to come back home for the family gathering.   

People usually celebrate the festival at night. The most important activity is to appreciate the bright full moon. The moon at the festival night is especially round and bright, symbolizing the peace, prosperity and family reunion. Family members usually chat, drink and eat under the full moon.

The festival food is moon cake. It is a round pastry with sweet fillings such as nuts, egg yolk, mashed red beans, black sesame, osmanthus flowers and more. Also, nowadays there are fruit-flavored, coffee-flavored and ice-cream moon cakes. About one month before the festival, you can see the cakes have begun to be sold in supermarkets. People buy it for relatives and friends to send best wishes. The round cake which likes the round moon also symbolizes the family reunion.

Also, people like to appreciate osmanthus flowers and drink Cassia wine. Some delicious cookies were also cooked by osmanthus flowers. However, people seldom drink Cassia wine which has been replaced by red wine and white spirit.


Besides the above customs, people in different parts of China have different ways to celebrate the festival. In Hong Kong, Guangxi and Guangdong Provinces, people usually make and play lanterns for the festival. In Zhejiang Province, watching the flood tide of the Qian-tang River during the festival is a must for local people.

More Traditional Chinese Festivals:

Chinese Spring Festival      Laba Festival      Lantern Festival      Dragon Heads-raising Day      Qingming Festival      Ghost Festival      Double Seventh Festival       Dragon Boat Festival        The Double Ninth Festival      Winter Solstice

Chinese Calendar

SuMoTuWeThFrSa
25
十八/18
26
十九/19
27
二十/20
28
廿一/21
29
廿二/22
30
廿三/23
1
廿四/24
2
廿五/25
3
廿六/26
4
廿七/27
5
廿八/28
6
廿九/29
十一月 (Nov)
7
初一/1
8
初二/2
9
初三/3
10
初四/4
11
初五/5
12
初六/6
13
初七/7
14
初八/8
15
初九/9
16
初十/10
17
十一/11
18
十二/12
19
十三/13
20
十四/14
21
十五/15
22
十六/16
23
十七/17
24
十八/18
25
十九/19
26
二十/20
27
廿一/21
28
廿二/22
29
廿三/23
30
廿四/24
31
廿五/25
1
廿六/26
2
廿七/27
3
廿八/28
4
廿九/29
5
三十/30

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