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The Mid-Autumn Festival is the second most important traditional festival to Chinese people after Chinese New Year. Here are 10 stunning facts about this popular holiday.
The Mid-Autumn Festival falls as early as September 8, which is late summer for south China; not even autumn! Its latest date of October 6 is still only early autumn for south China. Only in north China, where there are short summers and long winters, is the festival aptly named climatically, but only for about half of the time. So why is it called "Mid-Autumn"?
The Mid-Autumn Festival is always celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar, the middle of lunar month 8. The 7th, 8th, and 9th lunar months are classed as autumn. So actually it is the "mid-lunar-autumn" festival.
In Chinese beliefs, the roundness of the full moon means 'togetherness', thus the reunion moon is very special in Chinese culture. The Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month every year, which is a "full moon day".
On the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival, the harvest moon is supposed to be at its brightest and fullest of the year. This festival also has an origin in moon worship.
It is generally believed that the moon is brightest in fall, which holds some truth, due to least cloudy skies on average.
Actually, the Mid-Autumn Festival does not always occur on the night of the full moon, which is contrary to popular belief. The Chinese lunar calendar does not coincide perfectly with the cycles of the moon. However, the 15th day of the 8th lunar month is always within two days of the harvest moon night.
Read about the relationship between the moon and the Chinese lunar calendar.
Migrant Chinese workers would always try to go home for Chinese New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival. Now, many just go back for Chinese New Year as interest in traditional festivals is waning (moon pun coincidental).
The Mid-Autumn Festival is now joint third for public holiday allocation alongside Labor Day and three others. See more information about the China public holiday schedule.
The cost of a mooncake is actually quite low, e.g. 4 yuan (approx. 1 USD) for one mooncake. But the beautiful, luxury packs are a higher price. Every year, star-rated hotels promote luxury tailor-made mooncakes, which are sometimes priced higher than 1,000 yuan (150 USD) for each box (usually 6 mooncakes, approx. 1 kg).
The luxury mooncakes are usually stuffed with luxury ingredients, such as shark fin, abalone, and bird's nest. Or they are packaged in a luxury box that is decorated with gold or silver. People like to buy them as presents for friends or families.
Every year, Chinese people will try to make a mooncake as big as possible to break records. The largest mooncake was made in Shanghai in 2013. It weighed about 2,500 kg (5,500 lb), with a diameter of about 2.5 meters. It was much bigger than a normal bed.
There will be a three-day holiday during the festival. Chinese people like to spend time with their families, or to travel outside the towns on a short trip. Train tickets are usually sold out quickly during the festival time and famous tourist spots are usually quite crowded.
In ancient times, the Mid-Autumn Festival was another Chinese "Valentine's Day", alongside the Double Seventh Festival (this usually falls in August). Single people used to pay homage to "the old man in the moon" — the god who unites people in marriage — and prayed for his help finding true love and getting married quickly. Couples enjoyed spending some romantic time together.
During the Mid-Autumn Festival, it's very popular to appreciate the bright moon. Therefore, Chinese people like to find a place close to the moon in order to appreciate it fully, such as the roof, or a mountain top. Or some people like to go to the lakeside to enjoy a leisurely night with friends.
In traditional customs, people usually give mooncakes as gifts. But the Chinese youth tend to give lucky money — "digital red envelopes" — to friends or families via their phones. It's a fashionable activity to celebrate a festival.
Mid-Autumn is one of the busiest travel periods in China. Cheap public transport like buses and trains may be sold out, and accommodation may be slightly more expensive. If you want to experience the Mid-Autumn Festival in China, get your tickets as early as possible before the holiday.
Or you can contact us and we can help you avoid the hassles, and have a good China experience that includes the best of the Mid-Autumn Festival.