Mid-Autumn Festival

Mid-Autumn Festival is a harvest festival, celebrated in most East Asian countries, such as China and Vietnam. The festival takes places on month 8 day 15 of the Chinese calendar. In 2018 it's on September 24th. 

It is the second most important festival in China after Chinese New Year. To the Chinese, the festival means family reunion and peace. 

It is also called "the moon festival" as it is celebrated when the moon is believed to be the biggest and fullest.

 Festival Facts

  • Name in Chinese: 中秋节 Zhongqiujie /jong-chyoh-jyeah/
  • Date in 2018: Monday, September 24
  • History: Over 3,000 years
  • Must-eat food:mooncakes
  • Celebrations: admiring the full moon, eating mooncakes, Travelling
  • Greetings: The simplest is "Happy Mid-Autumn Festival" (中秋快乐).

 How the Chinese Celebrate Mid-Autumn

Chinese people celebrate the festival with many traditional and meaningful activities, such as eating dinner with family, hanging lanterns, guessing lantern riddles, and worshipping the moon.

Since 2008, the festival has been a 3-day public holiday in mainland China. In 2018, the holiday will be September 24–6, combining the National Day holiday and a three weekend days.

New celebrations have developed in recent years. The younger generations prefer traveling, surfing the Internet, and using smart phone apps to celebrate with their families.

What the Chinese Eat for Mid-Autumn Festival

Mooncakes are the must-eat Mid-Autumn food in China. They are a kind of traditional Chinese pastry. Chinese people see in the roundness of mooncakes a symbol of reunion and happiness.

Other foods eaten during the festival are harvest foods, such as crabs, pumpkins, pomeloes, and grapes. People enjoy them at their freshest and most nutritious. 

Festival food traditions are also changing. The younger generations have their own ideas about what should be eaten. Most of them don't like mooncakes, and prefer to eat what they like.

 Why Mid-Autumn Festival is Celebrated and How it Started

Chinese emperors worshiped the sun and moon every year, to pray for a good harvest, since the earliest recorded times. They believed the sun and moon are in charge of the universe.

The festival has history of over 3,000 years. It was derived from the custom of moon worship during the Shang Dynasty (c.1600–1046 BC).

Mid-Autumn was first celebrated as a festival during the Northern Song Dynasty (960–1127). Like the emperors, ancient people believed worshipping the moon and eating together round a table would bring them good luck and happiness.

10 Popular Mid-Autumn Festival Traditions and New Customs

1. Eating Mooncakes — The Most Representative Tradition


A mooncake is a traditional Chinese pastry. It is made from wheat flour and sweet stuffing, such as sugar and lotus seed powder.

It's a symbol of family reunion, and the cake is traditionally cut into pieces that equal the number of people in the family..

Eating mooncakes is the most common and representative tradition of the day. In ordinary times, people won't buy or eat mooncakes but during the Mid-Autumn Festival everyone will have a mooncake to celebrate.

2. Appreciating the Moon — a Symbol of Family Reunion

Appreciating the moon

In Chinese beliefs, the full moon is the symbol for a family reunion. Many famous ancient poets wrote poems about the moon and expressed their homesickness. When people look at the moon, it reminds them of their families and homeland..

Nowadays, people still like appreciating the moon during the Mid-Autumn Festival in China. Chinese family members have dinner together in the evening of the Mid-Autumn Festival. After dinner, they may talk about their work, the children, and their future plans.

Places for Appreciating the Moon — Roof, Mountaintop, or Lakeside

Chinese people like to find the best place that offers a great view of the moon, such as the roof, a balcony, a mountaintop, or a lakeside.

3. Worshiping the Moon — a Disappearing Tradition

Worshiping the moon

After dinner, every family will put a table outside the door, or in the courtyard. They put mooncakes, fruit, incense, and candlesticks on the table, facing towards the moon.

Nowadays, this tradition is disappearing. It's rare to see families worshiping the moon in big cities. In some old towns or tourist cities, people will hold a ceremony to worship the moon in a square, park, or street, but this is more like a performance.

Fruit for worshiping the moon includes a watermelon, grapefruit, pomegranate, pear, persimmon, grapes, or other seasonal fruit.

4. Making Colorful Lanterns — Children's Favorite Activity

Colorful lanterns

Making colorful lanterns is a happy activity between families and children. The lanterns have different shapes and can also resemble animals, plants, or flowers.

Children love making colorful lanterns. They make them in different shapes to be hung in trees or houses, or floated on rivers. Parks will also hang up colorful lanterns, which provide a beautiful view at night.

They also make Kongming lanterns, which can fly because the burning candles heat the air in the lantern. Children write good wishes on the lanterns and let them fly up into the sky.

5. Having Dinner Together — Happy Family Reunion Time

Having dinner with family

As the Mid-Autumn Festival represents the reunion of families, families will have dinner together on that night. People who don't have time to stay with their parents will try their best to go home to at least have dinner together. Therefore, there can be traffic jams during this festival.

Cook at Home or Dine at a Restaurant

In the past, mothers would cook delicious food at home and families would spend some happy time together. Nowadays, most families tend to have dinner at a restaurant rather than cook at home. Therefore, famous restaurants can be fully booked on the Mid-Autumn Festival night.

6. Giving Gifts — to Friends, Relatives, and Staff

It's very popular to give gifts to friends and relatives during the Mid-Autumn Festival. During the festival, people will pay short visits to friends or relatives, taking gifts with them. They usually leave before dinnertime. This is a good time to get closer to friends and relatives. Companies also like to give a gift to every staff member. The most popular and common gifts are mooncakes and fruit.


7. Sending Celebration Messages — to Those Who Are Far Away

People who are used to using phones will send celebration messages to friends, relatives, or people who are far away. It's also a good way to break the ice if you don't know how to start a conversation by phone. In the past, people sent SMS. Nowadays, young people like to send messages via instant messaging apps, such as WeChat or QQ.

The most popular message is: Happy Mid-Autumn Festival! 

  • Chinese: 中秋节快乐! Zhōngqiūjié kuàilè!


8. Short Distance Traveling — a New Fashionable Custom

Travelling with family

The Mid-Autumn Festival is not only a traditional Chinese festival but is also a public holiday for Chinese people. Usually, the Chinese will have three days off including a weekend. Therefore, people can go on short trips with family or friends.

Usually, a couple of weeks or a month before the festival, people will plan their tour to cities around their home or office. And during the 3-day holiday, train tickets are likely to be sold out in advance quickly.


9. Shopping — Popular Among Young People

During almost every big holiday, there will be discounted promotions in supermarkets, shopping malls, and online shops. During the Mid-Autumn Festival, supermarkets will have lottery draws for mooncakes using the consumers' receipts. And because the weather is cooling down, there will also be big summer sales in the shopping malls.

Young people are more likely to go shopping for clothes and to enjoy the big discounts, with online shopping being the most popular type.


10. Watching Movies — for Those Who Don't Have Any Other Ideas

Watching a movie is not a tradition for any festival as you can do this at any time. But when people don't have other plans and want to find a way to celebrate the festival, watching a movie is a good idea.

Usually, families or couples will watch movies after dinner. After shopping for a whole day, young people may also prefer to watch a movie to rest their legs.