What To Do During the Mid-Autumn Festival?

You might already know that China is preparing for a celebration, given the National Holiday taking place on Friday, September 13th. What is this celebration about, what are the customs surrounding it, but also what to do during this long week-end? Let’s find out.

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What Is The Mid-Autumn Festival

people walking on street with dragon statue during night time

  • Names: Mid-Autumn Festival, Moon Festival, East Asian Harvest Festival
  • What to say: 中秋节快乐!"zhongqiujie kuaile’" (Happy Mid-Autumn Festival)
  • When: 15th day of the 8th month of the Lunar Calendar
  • Where: China, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia with other look-alike festivals in Korea or Japan.

In ancient times (it started around 1046 BC), people noticed the correlation between the movements of the moon and the change of seasons, which is linked to the agricultural production, and thus started to express their thanks to the moon.  In the beginning, it was more of a royal class celebration during the Autumn equinox. Then it reached the common people, merged with the moon sacrifice ceremony, and the date moved to the 15th day of the 8th month of the Lunar Calendar.

The Moon Festival is also related to a very famous Chinese legend, the one of Chang’E flying to the moon. Her husband, an archer, shot down 9 of the 10 suns which were causing great damage to the hearth and the people. To reward him, he received an elixir of immortality. He accepted the gift but refused to take it to stay with his wife. One day, a robber tried to steal the elixir. To prevent him from drinking it, Chang’E drank it. She became immortal and flew to heaven, choosing the moon as a residence to stay near her husband. Saddened, her husband displaced food she liked outside and made sacrifices for her.

What Do People Traditionally Do?

brown cookies on clear glass tray

Gathering With Friends and Family

Traditionally, people visit their family and friends during the festival. The moon itself, with its round shape, is a symbol of reunion and being together. It comes with bringing gifts to loved ones, especially moon cakes, which we present to you just after.

People used to cook and dine at home. Nowadays, it is more about going out in a nice restaurant. If you are planning on eating outside this week-end, better book in advance!

Eating Mooncakes

What is more normal than to eat moon cakes during the Moon Festival? You have probably already seen this small round cake decorated with elegant drawings. Moon cakes are made from wheat or rice flour and sugar and come with different fillings, notably red bean and lotus paste.

Before family members used to make them together, nowadays you can find them in every store, making this tradition disappear.


Traditionally, people were making and decorating lanterns, especially with riddles that one could have fun solving. Nowadays, you will probably see lanterns in parks, or floating on rivers.


The custom is to put a table outside of the house with offerings for the moon (fruit, incense, and candlesticks). It faded away, however, you might be able to see it in some old towns or touristy places, yet it is not genuine and more of a tourist attraction.

What Activities Can You Do?

white and red boat on river during daytime

As for every Chinese holiday, people go home and thus the trains, planes and buses are quite crowded. If you feel like resting at home, that is thus a very valid option to avoid the crowd.

If you have children, you might consider decorating lanterns with them. They come in all forms and shapes, some of them resemble animals or flowers. Traditionally, children will write good wishes on them, but you can get creative!

Recently, people have become more and more keen to travel near home. Consider short trips to a nearby town or village you never had the occasion to go to. However, tickets are likely to be sold out very quickly. If you live in Shanghai, you can explore one of the nearby water towns such as Suzhou or Hangzhou, or even the more rural Tongli. You might also want to escape the city and enjoy nature at Moganshan, or even choose a more atypical scenery and book a ticket to the abandoned fishermen village of the Shengsi Islands.

Not too keen to leave the city? Consider doing some shopping. As often during any holiday, malls display discounts. It’s also the end of the Summer Season, so you will probably find good deals for Summer clothes, which come in handy while the weather is still quite warm.

You can also comply with the Chinese tradition and gather with friends for dinner or lunch, a great occasion to take time to enjoy your loved ones!

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