The Mid-Autumn Festival (13 September) is just around the corner! There will be beautiful lanterns in Chinatown and numerous mooncake booths in malls across Singapore. 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, 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 from 31 August until 28 September. Take a stroll along the busy streets (New Bridge Road, Eu Tong Sen Street and South Bridge Road) and enjoy the rows of colourful traditional lanterns.
To commemorate the bicentennial year, the light-up depicts the story of Singapore over the past 200 years. Until 13 September, there’ll also be nightly performances (8pm to 10.30pm) at Kreta Ayer Square to enjoy, including Chinese cultural acts, music and dance numbers and lion dance performances. You can also visit the festive bazaar along Pagoda Street, Trengganu Street, Sago Street and Smith Street (30 August to 13 September, 6.30am to 10.30pm). Over 200 stalls will sell festive treats such as mooncakes, pomelos, lanterns and handicrafts.
Want more fun? During the mass lantern walk on 8 September (7pm to 10pm), you’ll be joined by dragon dance troupes, cheerleaders and a percussion band, with performances and a fireworks display to follow. On 1, 7 and 8 September (3pm to 5pm), there’ll also be a cool heritage and food trail (register here) where you can taste local dishes, and learn more about the history of Chinatown and the traditions of the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Gardens by the Bay
Can’t get enough of the pretty lanterns? The Mid-Autumn Festival at Gardens by the Bay is back, with 14 stunning lanterns sets across the gardens. Happening from 30 August to 15 September (7pm to 11pm), this year’s display features a giant revolving lantern wrapped around a Supertree. You’ll be able to take an immersive stroll through the lantern set, to see the story of Chang’E and Hou Yi from the Mid-Autumn Festival legend come alive.
Besides cultural performances by ten local arts groups (every Wednesday to Sunday), there’ll also be a mass lantern walk led by a stunning LED dragon and stilt walkers on 14 September. If you enjoy your local eats, you’ll be glad to know that the popular Food Street will be making an appearance.
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 13 to 15 September, offering a mix of free and ticketed activities and performances. Enjoy a fun day of arts and crafts, performances, talks and even a Chinese opera workshop. The popular lantern walkabout (14 September, 7.45pm) also returns, taking you on a fun stroll along the waterfront.
Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall
Don’t miss the Wan Qing Mid-Autumn Festival at Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall on 7 and 8 September (10am to 9pm). Take part in fun activities for the whole family, from lantern-making workshops and storytelling to mooncake tastings and performances. There will also be a heritage trail around Balestier and guided tours of the museum’s galleries.
Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre
Learn more about the festival at the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre’s Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations on 13 and 14 September. There’ll be crafts, tea-tasting, moon-gazing, performances, movie marathons and more.
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Love mooncakes? Enrol your little one in the Snowskin Mooncakes Workshop at the Singapore Botanic Gardens on 13 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 Children’s Garden. Sign up now.
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