Last updated on May 25th, 2022
When is the mid autumn festival in 2021? What even is the mid autumn festival? How can you celebrate it? And what do you need?
Feel like you’ve got too many questions roaming around your head? Don’t worry, we’re on hand to explain exactly what the mid autumn festival is and when you can celebrate it with your loved ones. In its most basic description, mid autumn festival, also known as moon festival, is a lot like Thanksgiving having family union. Except that this is a Chinese tradition that is popular all over Asia. So stick with us and we’ll tell you exactly how to celebrate Chinese mid autumn festival with your family and friends!
Table of contents
- Origins and Legend of the Mid-Autumn Festival
- What does the festival mean nowadays?
- When is the Mid-Autumn festival in 2022?
- Special celebrations in Hong Kong and Taiwan
- How to celebrate Chinese Mid-Autumn festival at home
- Mooncake Recipe
Origins and Legend of the Mid-Autumn Festival
To start with, let’s learn a little more about where the mid autumn festival first began. It might interest you to know that it’s also known as the moon festival. In the later part when you read the origins and legends below, you’ll see why.
Fairy Chang Flying To The Moon
It is said that in ancient times, ten suns hung in the sky and the heat was unbearable. Day after day people struggled to work in the heat until one day a strong man by the name of Hou Yi took it upon himself to shoot down nine of the ten suns. Widely celebrated for his help, Hou Yi lived a happy life and met and married a beautiful woman named Chang E.
The pair lived in happiness for many years, but Hou Yi’s help with the ten suns was never forgotten on earth, or in heaven. As such, the Queen of Heaven presented Hou Yi with an elixir one day. This elixir was designed to take the drinker straight to heaven to become a god, so Hou Yi took it home and asked his wife to store it.
Taking off to The Moon
Word spread of the elixir that Hou Yi and Chang E were storing, and a villain by the name of Pengmeng saw his opportunity to steal it and guarantee his position in heaven. He arrived one day whilst Hou Yi was hunting, and faced with no other choice, Chang E drank the elixir herself to stop Pengmeng from taking it.
It is said that Chang E flew towards heaven, but chose instead to live in the moon because it was the nearest place to earth and her beloved husband. Legend has it that Chang E lives in the crystal palace even now, desperate to be reunited with her love and facing limitless loneliness. Every year when the moon is at its fullest, Hou Yi looks up to it and serves all of Chang E’s favourite foods and drinks to celebrate his lost love. This was the start of the mid autumn festival.
Rabbits Living In The Moon
Another legend tells of how three immortals appeared in front of a Monkey, Fox, and Rabbit to beg food from them. The Monkey and Fox obliged, but the Rabbit, having no food to offer the elderly, instead sacrificed himself as food.
“You can eat me,” the Rabbit said, before jumping into the flames of a roaring fire.
Moved by the Rabbit’s sacrifice, the immortals decided instead to send him to the moon so that he could keep Chang E company during her desperate loneliness. The Rabbit became an immortal Jade Rabbit. And the legend tells of how he lives in the moon to this day, preparing medicine for those who shall live the rest of their immortal lives in heaven.
Every year, when the moon is full, we remember the sacrifice that both Chang E and the Rabbit made out of the goodness of their hearts, and we celebrate them by giving our thanks.
What does the festival mean nowadays?
Nowadays, we celebrate the moon festival by telling the stories of Chang E and the immortal Jade Rabbit and by gathering with our loved ones to show thanks for all that we have.
Whether it’s the stories of lost loves or personal sacrifices, this time of year is incredibly important to those that celebrate the mid autumn festival. So, we gather our friends and family a little closer, and enjoy each other’s company by celebrating and sharing good food and drink with one another. Gathering when the moon is at its fullest is important in Chinese culture, because the full moon represents union, so we celebrate by making time for those we love.
We also give thanks during the mid autumn festival. We give thanks for everything: the opportunity to spend time with our family; the sacrifices that Chang E and the immortal Jade Rabbit made; the food and drink we’re sharing and everything in between. Traditionally, the mid autumn festival aligns with harvesting season in farming societies, so that’s another special reason for us to give thanks.
When is the Mid-Autumn festival in 2022?
The mid autumn festival 2022 takes place on the 10th of September, so there’s still plenty of time for you to get your preparations in order to celebrate with your loved ones too! The lunar calender, which tracks the moon phase (or position) dictates mid autumn festival, unlike the calender we typically use in Western societies which is dictated by the sun.
The actual date of the festival varies each year, because we don’t celebrate mid autumn festival on a specific day, instead we celebrate when the moon is at its fullest. This year that date is September 10th 2022, but this will be different next year.
Special celebrations in Hong Kong and Taiwan
It’s not just China that celebrates mid autumn festival, many places in Asia celebrate it too with slightly different traditions. Two examples of this are Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Fire Dragon Dance in Hong Kong
One way we can celebrate the mid autumn festival in Hong Kong is with the Fire Dragon Dance. This began in Tai Hang in the 19th century, when the community was hit by three disasters in a row just days before the mid autumn festival began. A typhoon, plague, and python struck the village, taking many homes, lives, and livestock with them. The village elder dreamt Buddha advised him a Fire Dragon Dance would lift the plague and remove the python from their village, so the entire village joined in – and it worked!
Now, every year, the streets of Tai Hang are lined with spectators as 300 people carry a 67 meter long Fire Dragon through the streets covered from head to tail with thousands upon thousands of incense sticks.
Sky Lanterns in Taiwan
In Taiwan, it’s much more common to light sky lanterns with well wishes written on them before releasing them to the sky to celebrate the mid autumn festival. If you want to take part in this tradition, then we have found some amazing eco-friendly paper sky lanterns in a variety of colours for you to try.
BUT BE WARNED! Many places around the world see sky lanterns as a fire hazard and discourage you from using them, and some places ban them entirely. Look up the rules in your local area before purchasing these sky lanterns.
How to celebrate Chinese Mid-Autumn festival at home
One of the main activities during the mid autumn festival is celebrating and appreciating the moon, and hence it explain another name of mid-autumn festival is moon festival. So, make sure you throw your mid autumn festival party outside so everybody can see the moon in all its glory. Below are some great ideas to help you throw an amazing mid autumn festival in 2021, no matter where you are in the world!
It’s important during the moon festival to gather with your family. The legends tell of those who can no longer be with their families (such as Chang E). Therefore, this is the perfect reason to gather with your family for dinner to show thanks for the family and loved ones you have. It also keeps with tradition because Hou Yi created all of Change E’s favourite dishes to remember her.
Mooncakes are a traditional Chinese sweet pastry. The serve it to family and friends every year during the moon festival. The cake represents family union, and the cake is traditionally cut into the number of family members that are present whilst it’s being served. If you want to take part in this tradition, we’ll include a recipe at the end that’s simple to make but absolutely delicious.
Before you think about baking though, you will need to purchase some traditional mooncake moulds. These DIY mooncake moulds will be perfect for the job. The patterns are traditional and will make your mooncakes look the part.
Eating Seasonal Fruits
Eating seasonal fruits is a common tradition during the moon festival because it lines up with harvesting season. Across Asia you would expect to see Thai Pomelo, Japanese Housui Pears, or Japanese Persimmon on the menu, but this isn’t really an option if you’re in the UK. Still, you can celebrate by eating fruit that is in season here. Apples, blackberries, pears, and pumpkins are all readily available in Autumn, so eat some of these and thank our farmers for their hard work whilst you’re at it!
Appreciating The Moo
This can be as simple as sitting beneath the moon with your family and just talking about life. Catch up with one another, see how everybody is doing, and make the time to talk to everybody who is present. The full moon is about family reunion, so take this time to appreciate the moon’s beauty and spend time with those you love!
It would also be a nice touch to decorate indoors in case it gets cold later in the evening. There are a few options available to you, but we’d recommend these amazing hanging Chinese lanterns in an array of different patterns. You get 12 in a pack, so you could fill the space with them as a nod to traditional Chinese decorations.
For The Kids: Light Up Lanterns, Candles, and Electric Lanterns
Whether you let them decorate paper lanterns or you simply put the kids to work hanging them, paper lanterns are a traditional part of the mid autumn festival. We’ve found some amazing colourful lanterns in a pack of 10 for you to use. These are just plain block colours, so you could get your kids to sit down and decorate it themselves. This is a great way for them to bond with their friends and family too!
Another amazing option is these great indoor Chinese lantern fairy lights. You can hang it indoors to create a really lovely atmosphere. Get your kids to help hang them in a special place so all of your family can see them lit up and looking wonderful!
The most important part of the moon festival for kids is getting them to involve in activities and creating special memories so they carry on the traditions with their kids when they’re older.
Modern Outdoor BBQ
Another great way to celebrate is with a modern outdoor BBQ. Get all your favourite foods and start grilling! You’d even get brownie points if you use any of the lanterns we’ve suggested so far to decorate the dining space outdoors with beautiful, bright Chinese lanterns!
To finish, we’re going to provide you with a delicious mooncake recipe so you can serve it with your family. Remember to purchase the mooncake DIY moulds we spoke about earlier first. Once you’ve done that, here are the ingredients you’ll need:
For the dough
– 60g golden syrup
– 100g cake flour
– 25g vegetable oil (or 1 and 2/3 tablespoons)
– 1/4 teaspoon of lye water (or baking soda and water mixed if you can’t find lye water)
For the filling
– 10 salted egg yolks
– 220g of lotus paste (you can buy this in store)
Let’s make some mooncakes!
1) First mix all the dough ingredients, remembering to sieve the cake flour all at once on top of the wet ingredients and then combine. Leave to refrigerate.
2) Wash the 10 salted egg yolks, being careful to remove any whites that may be stuck to it. Then pat dry and wrap the egg yolk with lotus paste. Roll into a ball and leave alone for now.
3) Roll out your pastry and then add your filling balls. Roll the pastry to ensure the filling is sealed in tight and the thickness of the pastry is the same throughout. You want your mooncakes to be ball shaped.
4) Place the mooncakes on a baking tray and use the pistons of the moulds to put patterns on the mooncakes.
5) Bake in a middle rack of an oven at 300 F, 150 C, or Gas Mark 2 for 15 minutes. Stop half way to brush with egg wash for a golden brown finish.
6) Remove from oven and leave to cool. Mooncakes are best after being left for 3 days in an air-tight container before eating!