One of the most significant festivals in the Chinese lunar calendar is Mid-Autumn Festival. To give thanks to a bountiful autumn harvest, it is observed on September 24 this year, or annually on the 15th day of the 8th moon according to the lunar calendar.
Celebrated by Chinese people around the world due to China’s cultural influence, the way in which it is observed may differ from country to country. However, there are quite a few similarities. To many Chinese, Mid-Autumn Festival, or Moon Festival, is also a time to gather with family. Featured prominently at the reunion dinner are mooncakes, a traditional delicacy. After a hearty meal, the family adjourns to the garden to chit-chat as they gaze at the big, round moon, said to be at its brightest and fullest. It is autumnal equinox, after all!
Mid-Autumn in Hong Kong
Mid-Autumn Festival is a major celebration in Hong Kong, similar to other countries with a predominately Chinese population. To tourists, this time of the year is one of the most colourful to visit Hong Kong, as lantern displays, including thematic lanterns, and exhibitions run throughout the month in many parts of the territory.
The main highlight and grandest celebration is the Mid-Autumn Urban Carnival at Victoria Park on September 24, an all-event under one roof with a full cultural programme. Expect to witness, among others, energetic kung fu demonstration, melodious folk song and lively cultural dance performances, as well as traditional craft workshops.
Keeping tradition alive
Of all these activities, not to be missed is the Fire Dragon Dance by Tai Hang community, a fiery ancient ritual that is over a hundred years old. It all began over a century ago when the Tai Hang village was afflicted by a series of calamities, beginning with a typhoon, a plague and then a python attack on livestock. To put a stop to this run of bad luck, a fire dragon dance was performed for three days and nights, amidst the loud beating of drums and crackling of fireworks.
Today, Tai Hang in Causeway Bay is no longer a village but its dragon dance ritual lives on. On the eve of Mid-Autumn Festival, rituals are performed at Lin Fa Temple before the dragon weaves its way through Tai Hang over three days. The dance involves 300 performers to hoist the 67-metre long dragon, whose head alone weighs a massive 48 kg. It is a sight to behold.
Over in Taiwan, to the east of Hong Kong across the South China Sea, Moon Festival, as it is more commonly known here, is also celebrated with similar enthusiasm, albeit in a less colourful manner. After all, unlike Hong Kong, one is hard pressed to look for lantern displays and carnivals during this season. Don’t worry though, if you do find yourself visiting Taiwan during Moon Festival, there are still plenty of memorable moments to take home.
A fairly recent Moon Festival custom in Taiwan is the hosting of barbecue parties in the moonlight, all the better to enjoy the moon at its brightest with loved ones and even strangers, complemented by mooncakes, pomelos and tea, an integral part of the festivity.
All across Taiwan, BBQ grills are set up just about anywhere outdoors, not only in the backyard, on the sidewalks, along riverside parks or campsites. Coming out in droves as early as 3pm, the sky is soon filled with smoke and autumn breeze, with the sweet aroma of BBQ.
While in Taiwan during Moon Festival, remember to stake out the best spots for the most picturesque views of the full moon. With the cooperation of Mother Nature by granting us fine weather, one of the world’s tallest buildings, Taipei 101, is a good bet to catch the full moon.
Other landmarks around Taipei that also offer clear, unobstructed views of the moon include Tamsui Fisherman’s Wharf, Daan Forest Park, and Yangmingshan National Park.
Not in Taipei? Recommended viewing points around the island are Alishan in Chiayi County, Xizi Bay in Kaohsiung, Nanwan in Pingtung County, Dongshan River Water Park in Yilan County, Wuling Farm in Taichung, and Anping Distrcit in Tainan.
So, will you be in Hong Kong or Taiwan during Mid-Autumn Festival? Make sure to catch all these happenings centred around the festivity to get the most out of your visit.
Note: An edited version of this article is published in the September 2018 issue of Malindo Air in-flight magazine. Photos used here are for illustration purposes only.
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