How to Enjoy a Chinese Moon Festival

If you're not familiar with the traditional Chinese celebration known variously as Mid-Autumn Festival, the Moon (or Mooncake) Festival or the Chinese Moon Festival (or Zhongqiu Festival), but you'd like to get more involved, here are some suggestions to get you started.


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    Understand what this festival is about. The Mid-Autumn festival is an important event on the Chinese and Vietnamese calendars, a time of family reunion and celebration. It is a lunar harvest festival and has rituals that date back as long ago as 3,000 years. The festival is held on the fifteenth day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, falling close to the autumnal equinox. It is a time of lanterns, story-telling, mooncakes, dragon or lion dancing and matchmaking.
    • This festival has equivalents in other countries, such as Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and South Korea.
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    Gather some essential supplies. Visit your local Chinatown to purchase authentic Chinese tea leaves, lanterns, incense and moon cakes (you can also make your own lanterns and moon cakes, see later steps). These are important parts of the celebration.
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    Make moon cakes. If you enjoy baking, you might like to make your own moon cakes for the celebration. For details on making your own, see How to make moon cakes. Give yourself plenty of time to practice making them if you've never tried before––they are labor intensive and time-consuming, which is why so many of them are now made commercially.
    • Chinese moon cakes tend to be round (like the moon), while Vietnamese ones tend to be square but the shape used is flexible.[1]
    • Traditional fillings for moon cakes include: lotus bean/seed paste, sweet bean paste, five kernel, egg yolk, jujube paste or dried/jam apricots.[2] However, there are many modern variations, so if you're a keen baker, search online for the many variants of making moon cake fillings.
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    Make lanterns for decoration or for use. Making easy lanterns at home is a good way to involve the children and other family members in preparing for the event. Some ideas for making lanterns include:
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    Mark the date on the calendar. When the day arrives, wait until nighttime. Call your family over (this is a time of family togetherness) and watch and admire the moon together. Watch the moon rise and then disappear into the clouds or into the clear sky. Share your experiences of the moon: how bright it is, the way it looks in the night sky, the impressions it leaves on you.
    • If you can't be with your family, still gaze at the moon and think about your family. Suggest that they do the same too, and you'll all be looking at the moon together, even if apart.
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    Serve the moon cakes and brew tea for you and your family to eat and drink. Cut the moon cakes into fourths. Use toothpicks to eat the moon cakes.
    • While you eat, talk about the origins of the Moon Festival. This is a good occasion to learn more Chinese or Vietnamese history, either by viewing history information provided on the internet or looking at relevant history books.
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    Light or turn on the lanterns and close all the lights in the house. Enjoy the glow emitted by the lanterns. If you have floating sky lanterns, release them (of course, only do so if this is legal in your area––don't do it where dry grass could catch on fire and start a wildfire).
    • In some places you can see lantern boats being launched. This is a beautiful sight, so check your local news to see if this is happening near you.
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    Burn the incense. This is in reverence to various deities. It also adds to the atmosphere.
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    Check out the possibility of seeing live dragon or lion dances in your area. If there is a local Chinese or Vietnamese dance troupe near where you live, you might be lucky enough to see a live dance and join in the celebrations with the crowd.


  • If you want to photograph the moon, check out How to photograph the moon for details, as it's a bit of challenge to get a good image of a bright object against the night sky.
  • Some people like to find a moon-oriented activity, such as scrying, watching the ebb and flow of a strong tide or planting winter vegetables by the moon.
  • If you want to find a date, go out to a dance this night and see if matchmaking is possible for you!
  • Legend has it that a man who lived on the moon went down to Earth, disguised as an old beggar. He came to where a rabbit, a fox, and monkey lived. He said he was very hungry. The fox and monkey found food easily, but the rabbit finally decided to cook himself so the beggar could eat him. That is why when you look at the moon very closely, you can see a dark rabbit on the moon.


  • Moon cakes are delicious but too many a stomachache can make!
  • Chinese lanterns can be a fire hazard. Only use if you have experience with them and supervise their use at all times.
  • Do not point at the moon; this is a Chinese cultural taboo.

Things You'll Need

  • Lanterns
  • Moon cakes
  • Incense
  • Online access for history and checking out events in your area
  • Craft gear (optional)
  • Camera/video camera (optional)

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