We’re Over the Moon Celebrating China’s Mid-Autumn Moon Festival

The Mid-Autumn Moon Festival is the second most important festival in China. This year China’s Harvest Moon Festival falls on Sept. 15, 2016. Most Chinese citizens will have Thursday through Sunday off work for this highly anticipated public holiday.

The Mooncake Festival dates back to the early Tang Dynasty (618–907) . It became even more popular during the Song Dynasty (969–1279). Until the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368–1911) it was considered on a par with Chinese New Year as the top traditional festival in China.

You may have noticed that the festival has already been referred to by a few different names. It has numerous names. It is often referred to as:

• Moon Festival or Harvest Moon Festival, because Chinese celebrate the full moon on this night. (Older traditions were moon worship.)

• Mooncake Festival, because what’s the point of a national holiday without a traditional dish? Chinese maintain the tradition of eating mooncakes on this day.

• Jūng-chāu Jit (中秋節) is the official name in Cantonese Chinese.

• Tết Trung Thu is official name in Vietnamese.

• Zhōngqiū Jié (中秋节) is the official name in Mandarin Chinese.

• Lantern Festival, a term sometimes used in Singapore and Malaysia, which is not to be confused with the otherLantern Festival in China that occurs on the 15th day of the FIRST month of the Chinese calendar.

• Reunion Festival, because families unite

• In Vietnam, it’s also sometimes referred to as the Children’s Festival, because of the emphasis on kid-friendly traditions.

As one might suspect, a festival with many names has many meanings. Most of the customs are based on these cultural concepts:

•Celebrating the moon, which is a symbol of harmony and unity.

•Gathering family and friends together. It’s said the moon is the brightest and roundest on this day which means family reunion.

•Thanksgiving, to give thanks for the harvest/food, or for harmonious unions

•Praying for things such as fertility, a spouse, beauty, longevity or for a good future.

Like Thanksgiving in the US, the festival was originally a time to be thankful for a successful harvest. Chinese have celebrated the reaping of rice and wheat with food offerings made in honor of the moon.

The festival has many regional customs, such as burning incense and watching performances of dragons and lion dances, which is practiced in southern China and Vietnam. But the most well-known customs now are honoring the moon, eating moon cakes, giving mooncakes, flying lanterns, children making lanterns and eating a reunion dinner. Often companies give mooncakes as gifts to valued customers or business associates.

Traditionally, families celebrate with a family reunion by having dinner together. Then after dinner, they find the best place to view the moon with an unobstructed view, such as a rooftop, lakeside or mountaintop. It is a disappearing tradition, but in small towns people still practice worshiping the moon, however it is now more like a street performance rather than a sacred act. 

The most prominent part of the Mid-Autumn festival is the giving of mooncakes to friends and family. When you receive your first mooncake, you might want to ask the flavor before you bite into it, as the flavors range from chocolate to seafood to Five Kearnal and Roast Pork.

And as a packaging company, we are especially interested in seeing all the moon cake packaging.

There are other traditions surrounding the festival that seem to be disappearing such as a moonlit crab crawl, touching pumpkins and beans for fertility, and more Chinese are opting for eating out instead of planning a home cooked meal.

But that’s how to celebrate in China, here’s how Americans can celebrate in the US!

San Fran was the city for the pre-party as their Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations were last weekend.

If you are in LA, you can go to Chinatown’s Central Plaza on this Saturday to celebrate.

NYC’s Chinatown will be celebrating with events all month long. Or you can book the Hornblower Mooncake Cruise around Manhattan.

In Seattle, Chinese cultural events will happen thoughout the weekend at Lan Su Chinese Garden.

In Chicago, you can head to Chinatown Square. Or if you want something a little more formal, go to the Peninsula Hotel to experience their Mid-Autumn Festival dining menu.

If all that seems like too much work, just grab some Chinese food and go see the movie Kubo and the Two Strings.

If you are in the US dreaming of fresh mooncakes, thinking they are just the pie in the sky, not to worry, mooncake aficionados can find them all over the US. 

In NYC, there is Mooncake Foods  delivering mooncakes to your door, and New Yorkers have access to the 10 Best Chinese Bakeries, according to Time Out New York.

In LA, you can get modern mooncakes to celebrate the ancient tradition – check out My Heip or Kee Wah Bakery or 85 Degrees Celsius Bakery cafe.

And if you’re in Dallas, you’ll definitely want to visit the new 85C Bakery Cafe for your mooncakes.

If you’re hankering for a mooncake in Chicago, head for Tai Nam Market, or Chiu Quon Bakery.

San Francisco has many options with Golden Gate BakeryEastern BakeryGarden BakeryMee Mee Bakery, andWing Lee Bakery. And urban legend has it that in San Francisco, they’re even selling mooncakes at Costco.

If your city has a Chinese grocery store, you can probably find mooncakes there, although they might not compete with the ones you can order online from Sheng Kee Bakery .


Happy Mid Autumn Festival!


I wish that your career and life, just like the moon on Mid-Autumn day, be perfect and bright.

Caleb Lummer