In China, and beyond, at the moment we are celebrating Mid-Autumn Festival. Although it’s a slightly unglamorous name for a festival, it is the second most important festival in Greater China, after Chinese New Year.
The festival goes back many thousands of years and is celebrated (as you might have guessed) right in the middle of autumn. The festival is based around gathering together with your family, giving thanks for what you have and praying for good fortunes in the future.
The festival is celebrated when the moon is at its fullest and roundest. It is customary to spend the night with family and loved ones looking up at the moon. A touching aspect of the festival for me is to look at the moon and to think about and remember all of your family and ancestors that have looked up at the same moon during the festival.
This year was a particularly good year for moon-watching; the moon was the biggest and brightest it will be until 2037! The watching of the moon is so important that an insurance company in China offers a policy to compensate for emotional damage if you cannot see the moon on the night of the Mid-Autumn festival.
In China it is customary to give and eat Mooncakes around the time of the festival. The traditional version feature pastry with a lotus-seed paste inside, and usually a salty egg yolk. These days you can get them in all sorts of exciting (and more appealing) flavours.
This is the third time I have been in Asia for Mid-Autumn festival. The first year I celebrated the festival in Guangzhou. Guangzhou witnesses a huge transport rush as everyone leaves the city to spend time with their families. Over 3.3 million people travel through Guangzhou during the festival – one of the largest human migrations on the planet.
Last year I spent the festival in Sanya which is on China’s tropical island, Hainan. Here, we found many people celebrating the festival on the beach. There were giant picnics, music, dancing and a lot of fireworks and firecrackers being set off.
This year I spent the holiday in Hong Kong. Here, they mainly celebrate through lanterns and lights here, as well as Mooncakes. In Victoria Park there is a fantastic lantern festival featuring a “Rising Moon”, constructed out of thousands of re-used plastic bottles. There’s also many dragon dances and bonfire parties.
For me, Mid-Autumn festival has always been a time to celebrate a bit of Chinese culture and get to know the people and the families that surround me. I also enjoy looking up at the moon and thinking of my family and friends back in Britain and around the world, and think of them looking up at the same moon as me.