5 fun facts about the Mid-Autumn Festival in Hong Kong

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Mid-Autumn Festival is just around the corner! We at theDesk are starting to think about where to moon-gaze and enjoy mooncakes with our members and neighbors. To keep you in the know, we want to share 5 fun facts about the Mid-Autumn festivities!

theDesk - Mid Autumn 2018

1. A region-wide celebration!

While Mid-Autumn is predominately a Chinese festival it’s also celebrated by many other countries across the region including Malaysia, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore and South Korea. In Japan, people replace traditional mooncakes with glutinous rice cakes, while South Koreans are given an extended three-day break to enjoy the holiday with loved ones from across the country. In Thailand, in keeping with a legend of old, people offer up peach-shaped cakes – as a birthday greeting to the bodhisattva, Guanyin. With such a diverse range of members at theDesk, we get to experience a number of these traditions this festive season – lucky us!

2. Why are we celebrating?

Even though nobody is certain about the exact origins of the festival, there are several tales that explain why we celebrate on this special day. The most popular of these is the legend of Lady Chang’E.

In a fantastical past, the world once faced a horrible phenomenon — a sky filled with ten scorching suns. Just as people thought the end of the world was nigh, a brave young hero called Hou Yi shot down the nine unnecessary suns. The citizens were grateful for his courageous act and thus proclaimed him Emperor. Not only were the commoners happy, the Queen of Heaven was also greatly impressed by Hou Yi and secretly bestowed upon him the elixir of immortality.

However, one of Hou Yi’s cunning apprentices discovered the reward and couldn’t resist the temptation of immortality. On the night of the full moon, he snuck into his master’s room only to be foiled by Lady Chang’E – Hou Yi’s beautiful wife. To prevent the potion from falling into the hands of the evil, she snatched the elixir from apprentice and hastily swallowed it. As soon as the last drop passed her lips, Lady Chang’E’s weightless body floated out of the window towards the full moon. She was never to be seen again.  

Upon hearing the news, Hou Yi was devastated. In hope of attracting his wife’s spirit to return, he prepared her favorite food – hand-crafted mooncakes. Citizens across the land all began to follow suit when they heard of the tragic incident that had befallen their Queen. Since then, the habit has been passed down through generations and has gradually become a Mid-Autumn tradition.

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3. Mooncakes – A weapon of war?

Legend has it that Mooncakes were used to secretly pass on messages by Chinese revolutionaries in an attempt to overthrow the Mongol rule during the Yuan Dynasty. In the 14th century uprising, a rumor was spread amongst the citizens that eating mooncakes would cure you of the plague. In fact, the mooncakes contained a hidden message instructing the citizens to all rebel on the day of the Mid-Autumn Festival. The Mongol overlords were eventually overthrown, and, to this day, many Chinese people thank the mooncake for the role it played.

theDesk - Mid-Autumn Mooncake
Mooncakes are the most popular treats for the Mid-Autumn festival and that why the festival is known as the Moon Cake Festival.

4. What is a mooncake?  

Mooncake is a Chinese dessert. Traditionally it’s made with red bean or lotus seed paste and filled with yolks of a duck egg. But as society has evolved, so have the fillings of the modern-day mooncakes. Snowy mooncake, a recently imagined alternative to the traditional recipe, has a crust made of flour and the inside is filled with all kinds of surprises including mango, durian, green bean, taro, lemon — basically anything you can think of. Did you know the largest mooncake ever, cooked in Shanghai, weighed 2,496kg?

5. Where do people celebrate?

Families usually have dinners at home or dine in traditional Chinese restaurants. In Hong Kong, lots of people, after their family dinners, attend the Mid-Autumn Festival and Lantern Carnivals on Victoria Park. However, there are many other festivities held in different parks and promenades across the city. In particular, the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance is a sight to behold. The dragon dance, that begins at Lin Fa Temple, incorporates a series of Hakka rituals and winds through the backstreets of Causeway Bay over the three-day festive period. Wherever you choose to celebrate, as long as you’re with your loved ones under the full moon then your Mid-Autumn is guaranteed to be a success.

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Now that you’re ready for the festivities, we at theDesk wanted to take a moment to wish you and your family a very special Mid-Autumn Festival! Let us know what you plan to do in the comments below. Perhaps you can take inspiration from our celebrations last week when we hosted a moon painting workshop in partnership with Moleskine and award-winning local artist, Fuquan Junze.

theDesk - Full Moon Painting
Ahead of this Mid-Autumn Festival on 24th September, immerse yourself in the beauty of a full moon by drawing one.

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