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Top 10 Mid-Autumn Festival Traditions and Activities

Written by Cindy Updated Aug. 8, 2023

The Mid-Autumn Festival is the second most important traditional festival in China (the most important one is Chinese New Year). It's a family day in China like Thanksgiving. There are many traditional and new celebrations. Read on to see how Chinese people celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival.

1. Having Dinner Together — Happy Family Reunion Time

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

Every family prepares food that emphasizes the bounty of fall's harvest or symbolizes good luck, including pumpkin, sweet potato, pomelos, and walnuts along with traditional celebratory foods like crab, pork, and duck.

Read more on Mid-Autumn Festival Food.

2. Eating Mooncakes — The Most Representative Tradition

Mooncakes, also known as reunion cakes, were originally made as offerings to the God of the Moon and later became the most important food for celebrating Mid-Autumn Festival.

Mooncakes symbolize reunion and are used as a festival food, still by some as offerings to the moon and its gods, and as gifts to relatives and friends. Eating mooncakes is an essential custom in China and other Asia countries to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival.

See the Top 10 Mooncake Flavors.

mid autumn festival tradition eating mooncakes

3. Appreciating the Moon — a Symbol of Family Reunion

It is said that the moon is the roundest and brightest on the night of a Mid-Autumn Festival. In Chinese beliefs, the full moon is a symbol of family reunion. It has been a custom to admire the full moon of this festival since ancient times.

When people look at the moon, it reminds them of their families and homeland. Many famous ancient poets wrote poems about the moon and expressed their homesickness.

Nowadays, people still like appreciating the moon during Mid-Autumn Festival in China. Chinese people like to find a place that offers a great view of the moon, such as a roof, a balcony, a mountaintop, or a lakeside.

While enjoying the moon, many people talk about the legend of Chang'e. Learn about the Top 3 Legends about Mid-Autumn Festival.

Mid-Autumn Festival

4. Worshiping the Moon — a Disappearing Tradition

An important activity to celebrate the festival used to be moon worship. After dinner, every family would put a table outside the door or in the courtyard to worship the moon and pray for blessings. Offerings were also made to a well-known lunar deity, Chang'e, known as 'Moon Goddess of Immortality'.

Food offerings for worshiping the moon include mooncakes, pomelos, grapes, or other seasonal fruit.

Nowadays, this tradition is disappearing. It's rare to see families worshiping the moon in big cities. It can be still found in some towns or villages.

mid autumn festival tradition, worshipping the moon

5. Making and Watching Colorful Lanterns — Children's Favorite Activity

Making colorful lanterns is a happy activity for families with young 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 also hang up colorful lanterns, which provide a beautiful view at night. They also make Kongming lanterns, which can fly because their burning candles heat the air inside. Children write good wishes on the lanterns and let them fly up into the sky.

mid autumn festival tradition, make lanterns

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

It's very popular to give gifts to friends and relatives during Mid-Autumn Festival. During the festival, people 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.

See The 5 Most Popular Mid-Autumn Festival Gifts for some ideas.

7. Watching the World's Greatest Tidal Wave

Watching the tide come in is a traditional custom popular in East China's Zhejiang Province. The tidal bore on the Qiantang River is greatest around Mid-Autumn Festival, with the tide head (tidal wave) reaching several meters.

Many people gather along the shores of China's Qiantang River at Hangzhou Bay to witness the magnificent natural wonder. Many TV stations also broadcast the event live.

8. Burning "Pagodas"

In some places of southern China, burning pagoda-like bonfires during Mid-Autumn Festival is another tradition.

On the night of the festival, people gather together in an open place and pick up broken bricks and tiles to pile up several pagodas, large and small. The pagodas are hollow and stuffed with firewood. When the firewood is lit, the red flames rise, and sparks explode.

It is a way to express the happiness of harvest in autumn and wish for a better future.

9. Enjoying Fire Dragon Dances

Dragon dances have become a symbol of Chinese culture. It can be seen in celebrations of Mid-Autumn Festival. The fire dragon dance in Hong Kong is quite special.

Almost every year, the night before Mid-Autumn Festival, a fire dragon dances through Tai Hang, a neighborhood of Hong Kong Island. For three nights in all, a dragon of more than 70 meters (76 yards) long — woven from coarse grass, festooned with burning incense sticks, and held aloft by dozens of performers — weaves its way through the narrow streets.

People believe that the dragon brings health and good luck. See more about Mid-Autumn Festival in Hong Kong.

mid autumn festival tradition, fire dragon dance

10. Drinking Osmanthus-Flavored Wine

Osmanthus flowers bloom in autumn. In Chinese culture, osmanthus flowers have long symbolized love, wealth, and fertility.

Drinking osmanthus wine at Mid-Autumn Festival symbolizes a harmonious family, wealth, and auspiciousness. This activity is especially popular in Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces of China.

Want to share the Mid-Autumn Festival story with your family? The 3-minute video below will show you all about it.

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