Best places to celebrate Mid-Autumn (Mooncake) Festival 2017

The Mid-Autumn Festival, celebrated with displays of pretty lanterns and gorging on sweet mooncakes, makes for a captivating cultural experience. Here are some of the best places to enjoy the festivities…
Traditional Chinese lanterns light up to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival  in Hong Kong, China. Photo: Shutterstock
Traditional Chinese lanterns light up to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival in Hong Kong, China. Photo: Shutterstock

Traditional Chinese lanterns used to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival in Hong Kong, China. Photo: Shutterstock


Background

The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon (or Mooncake) Festival and occurring on 4 October in 2017, originated more than 3,000 years ago. During China’s Zhou Dynasty, moon worshiping was common, especially in autumn; the practice was believed to ensure a plentiful harvest the following year. There are also various legends that surround the festival – the most popular being about Chang-E, a fairy who flew to the moon.

The festival is celebrated today primarily by the eating of mooncakes, which themselves have played an important part in history. Under the Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368), when China was occupied by the Mongols from the north, the Han Chinese often communicated with each other by hiding messages inside mooncakes.

Fillings vary but are usually a rich mixture of sugar, egg yolk and bean paste. Tang yuan, glutinous rice-flour balls with sweet fillings in sugar syrup, and yue bing, a cake baked specifically for this occasion, are also often eaten. Some of the younger generations now prefer more creative varieties of the tradition, such as Hägen-Dazs ice-cream mooncakes and gourmet chocolate adaptions.

Lanterns are also lit on this day, and tots carrying paper lanterns congregate in open spaces or join in the festival parades. Of course, traditions vary from place to place. Here are some great places in which to celebrate…


China

While celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival in one of China’s major cities is enthralling, why not spend the festival with one of the country’s ethnic minorities to enjoy it all from a different angle? By booking onto Insight Guides’ Incredible Yunnan trip today, you can spend the day in one of China’s most ethnically diverse provinces.      

In Yunnan province, the Dai people still worship the moon. In the morning, men head into the hills to hunt finches and pheasants to feast on; women make for the lakes and ponds to catch fishy delights; and old ladies join in to help prepare the meal. When the moon rises, joss sticks are lit, shots are blasted into the sky in noisy celebration and families sit around, eating and joking by the light of the moon.

Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival mooncake. Photo: Shutterstock


Singapore

In Singapore, celebrations really kick off when the sun goes down. Moon-viewing parties are common, with friends and family gathering to drink tea, gorge on mooncakes and sit in lantern-lit gardens.

To make the most of it, head to Chinatown, which puts on a range of vibrant events for the entire family (between 23 September and 19 October this year). Large lanterns are strung up, festive street stalls do a bustling trade and mooncakes, lanterns, handicrafts and steaming tea seem to be just about everywhere. The official opening ceremony will take place on 23 September, and is set to include a dragon dance performance, among others. Bring the whole family along to enjoy this special occasion by selecting Singapore Family Fun

Special traditional Chinese opera performance to celebrate Mooncake Festival in Singapore. Photo: Shutterstock

 

Vietnam

The Mid-Autumn Festival celebrated here has a different slant; it is one of the most pleasant of Vietnam’s festivals and is held so parents who have been busy harvesting rice can make up for lost time with their children. Known as Têt Trung Thu in Vietnamese, youngsters take to the streets clutching brightly decorated lanterns. Mooncakes are still on offer, and there is usually a lion dance parade. Do your children deserve some extra attention? Excite all their senses on Insight Guides’ Very Vietnam tour.


Traditional decorations in Mid-Autumn Festival. Photo: Shutterstock


Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, as you might expect, celebrations for the Mid-Autumn Festival boldly mix tradition and innovation. Mooncakes are sure to be given a creative makeover, with exciting new flavours and fillings. Expect fire dragon dances, lantern displays and stage shows, as well as palm readings, overflowing stalls and lantern riddle quizzes.

The main lantern carnival and many other great events are held in Victoria Park on Hong Kong Island. Book onto Hong Kong Deluxe and enjoy the celebrations as part of a super-luxury escape.


Traditional Chinese lanterns used for celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival. Photo: Shutterstock


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