If you’ve noticed beautiful lanterns being strung up in Chinatown and numerous mooncake booths setting up in malls across town, there’s good reason for it. The Mid-Autumn Festival (24 September) is just around the corner! Besides devouring your favourite mooncake variety – or trying them for the first time – it’s also a great chance to find out more about the cultural festival’s origins. There are fun things to do and places to visit, too, so check them out!
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, ten 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
Head to Chinatown for the annual Chinatown Mid-Autumn Festival 2018 from now until 8 October. Take a stroll along the busy streets (New Bridge Road, Eu Tong Sen Street and South Bridge Road) and enjoy hand-painted flower lanterns and sculptured lanterns depicting Samsui women, street hawkers and even a huge Chinese junk ship! On 21 and 22 September (5pm to 10pm), there’ll also be a fun culture and heritage trail featuring Cantonese traditional eats and activities such as calligraphy and costume photo booths.
Gardens by the Bay
Can’t get enough of the pretty lanterns? The Mid-Autumn Festival at Gardens by the Bay is back, with marvellous lanterns depicting fantastical worlds, from mythical creatures to larger-than-life flora and fauna. After checking out the lanterns, head to the marketplace at the Supertree Grove to enjoy cultural performances, a food street and more.
Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay
For a dose of culture, you’ll want to drop by the Moonfest at the Esplanade. This traditional Chinese arts festival will be held from 21 to 23 September, offering a mix of free and ticketed activities and performances. Enjoy a family day out of arts and crafts and even a martial arts workshop. The popular lantern walkabout also returns, taking you on a fun stroll along the waterfront.
If you’re in the HarbourFront area in the evening, the kids will love a visit to VivoCity’s amazing display of Disney Tsum Tsum lanterns. Held from now until 30 September at the Sky Park (Level 3), you can feast your eyes on over 2000 Tsum Tsum lanterns and snap shots with your favourite Disney characters, from Winnie the Pooh and Minnie Mouse to Buzz Lightyear and Sully.
Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall
Don’t miss the Wan Qing Mid-Autumn Festival at Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall on 22 and 23 September. Enjoy a weekend of fun activities for the whole family, from lantern-making workshops and storytelling to mooncake tastings and performances. There’s also a wide selection of lanterns from across the region on display from now until 8 October.
Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre
Learn more about the festival at the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre’s Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations. There’ll be puppet shows, storytelling, cultural talks, lantern-making workshops, music and opera performances and more.
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Love mooncakes? Enrol your little one in the Snowskin Mooncakes Workshop at the Singapore Botanic Gardens on 22 September (10am to 11.30am). Great for kids five to 12 years old, the workshop costs $30 per child. It also includes a guided tour around the revamped Children’s Garden! Sign up now.
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