The Mid-Autumn Festival (21 September) is just around the corner! You can expect beautiful lanterns across Chinatown, loads of delish mooncakes to get your hands on, and much more. Here’s the lowdown on the cultural festival’s origins and some fun things to do in this year’s instalment.
What’s the festival all about?
Held on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month in the Chinese calendar, the Mid-Autumn Festival traditionally marks and celebrates the end of the Autumn harvest. There are lots of legends surrounding this cultural festival, with the following tale of famous archer Hou Yi and his beautiful wife Chang’E one of the popular ones.
In ancient times, 10 suns are said to have existed, making the heat unbearable. Hou Yi became a hero after shooting down nine of the ten suns; he was given a magical elixir of immortality for his bravery by a goddess. In order to protect the elixir from being stolen, Chang’E swallowed it, causing her to fly to the moon, where she has remained forever. In her honour, people eat mooncakes and look at the moon in hopes of seeing her.
There’s another popular story behind the origins of mooncakes. During the Yuan Dynasty, the Han Chinese used the sweet treats to hide secret messages as part of their plan to overthrow the Mongols who were ruling at the time. From that time on, the Chinese have baked and eaten mooncakes to commemorate the event during the Mid-Autumn Festival.
What celebrations are there?
The festival was traditionally a thanksgiving celebration, with families gathering to eat mooncakes and admire the full moon. Moon worship also played a part; food was offered to the moon, and lanterns were carried to symbolise its light. However, in modern times, some of these traditions have become less common – the focus is more on the mooncakes. (You probably already know how fancy and creative they can get!) The tradition of gifting mooncakes is still prevalent in Singapore, though some families also still enjoy carrying lanterns during the festival – mainly for the kids!
Things to do
Catch the annual Mid-Autumn Festival street light-up from 7 September to 5 October. There will be sculptured lanterns along New Bridge Road, Eu Tong Sen Street and South Bridge Road. While there won’t be lantern walks, live performances or festive bazaars this year, there are still fun online programmes to enjoy from home. These include a mooncake-making workshop, virtual tour and social media giveaways. Get more updates at the Chinatown Festivals website.
Gardens by the Bay
Can’t get enough of pretty lanterns? The Mid-Autumn Festival at Gardens by the Bay is back with stunning lantern sets being displayed at its outdoor gardens. Over 2,000 of these are specially hand-painted and coloured by various community groups. Happening from 15 September to 3 October, the event will see lanterns lit daily from 6 to 10pm.
Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall
The Wan Qing Mid-Autumn Festival 2021 at Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall will be going online this year! From 31 August to 26 September, tune in to a variety of family-friendly virtual activities including lantern riddles and craft demos. Join the celebrations via the Facebook page. On site, visitors can also check out a special outdoor lantern installation named “Those Moonlit Moments”, featuring four characters produced by Thailand artist, Boonyavee Boonsakda (Ngaew Ngaew).
Esplanade Theatres on the Bay
Moonfest returns from 17 September to 3 October this year. There’ll be a variety of digital programmes that you can enjoy at home, from performances to craft sessions. Access them on Esplanade Offstage and Huayi’s Facebook page.
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