The Mid-Autumn Festival (1 October) is just around the corner! There’ll be beautiful lanterns across Chinatown and loads of yummy mooncakes to get your hands on. Here’s the lowdown on the cultural festival’s origins and some fun things to do during this period.
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 numerous legends surrounding this cultural festival, with the tale of famous archer Hou Yi and his beautiful wife Chang’E being one of the popular ones. In ancient times, 10 suns are said to have existed, making the heat unbearable. Hou Yi became a big hero after shooting down nine of the ten suns and 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 mooncakes 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, and now much focus is placed on mooncakes. (You probably already know how fancy and creative they can get!) The tradition of gifting mooncakes is still popular and 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 17 September to 16 October. As many as 700 lanterns and sculptures will be placed along New Bridge Road, Eu Tong Sen Street and South Bridge Road, with a special 10-metre centrepiece at the junction of Eu Tong Sen Street and Upper Cross Street. They’ll also be available for viewing online.
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 lantern painting, Instagram photo contests and even an escape room game. 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 and the Gardens’ staff. Happening from 18 September to 4 October, the event will see lanterns lit daily from 7 to 10pm.
There’ll also be a series of virtual programmes – find out more now.
Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall
The Wan Qing Mid-Autumn Festival at Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall will be going online this year! From 14 September to 11 October, tune in to a variety of family-friendly virtual activities, from cooking classes and virtual museum tours to storytelling sessions and craft demos. Join the celebrations via their Facebook page. On site, visitors can also check out a special outdoor lantern installation named “Rolling in Abundance”, featuring four colourful fish lanterns.
Esplanade Theatres on the Bay
Moonfest returns from 25 September to 4 October this year! There’ll be a variety of digital programmes which you can enjoy at home, from performances and craft sessions to even a virtual lantern walkabout. Access them on Esplanade Offstage and Huayi’s Facebook page.
Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre (SCCC)
SCCC has rolled out a series of online programmes about the customs and traditions of the Mid-Autumn Festival! Enjoy lantern riddles, animations and a moon-themed medley by a cappella band The Apex Project. Join in the fun on their Facebook page, Instagram page and YouTube channel.
Find out more about living in Singapore.