Mooncake Festival Travel China Guide

China’s traditional Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated each year on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. The festival attracts numerous visitors from all over the world, especially to enjoy the traditional custom of eating Mooncakes and watching the full moon. To those who are interested in Chinese traditions, planning a trip to China for the Mid-Autumn Festival is a must. This guide offers travelers detailed information about the festival, suggesting the highlights of Mooncake-related traveling, and offering advice on how to make the most of the cheerful holiday.

For centuries, Chinese people have been celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival. It has been said the festival originated during the Zhou Dynasty and was established to mark the full moon harvest season. The festival has been popular for thousands of years, but it was during the Tang Dynasty period when the combination of Mooncake eating and admiring the full moon became themes for the event. Starting from the Yuan Dynasty period, celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival became one of the biggest holidays in China, comparable to Chinese New Year.

The main celebratory event of the holiday is eating Mooncakes. This dessert has a deep cultural significance; it is said to represent unity and family reunion. Nowadays, Mooncakes are made with a variety of flavors from the traditional sweet ones to spicy and savory varieties. Tourists can find Mooncakes being sold anywhere in China during the festival, but the best recommendation is to try the original flavor Mooncake made with lard, nuts, lotus seed paste, and egg yolk.

Watching the full moon is also a highlight of the festival, since it symbolizes the reunion of family and friends. Every year, people around the country look for a spot where they can view the full moon perfectly. Parks, temples, river banks, and tower-like buildings are common spots to look out for that perfect shot of the moon. Travelers can find many picturesque and romantic places to admire the full moon throughout the country.

In order to make the most of the Mid-Autumn Festival, travelers should be aware of the peak busy dates of the holiday. Generally, September 29 and October 4 are the busiest festival days because the moon will look particularly beautiful on those days. Mid-Autumn Festival falls in the peak of tourist season in China, so be sure to book tickets to parks, attractions, and restaurants early.

Finally, unless travelers have pre-arranged tour guides, it is best to join local Chinese families while celebrating the festival. They are the best source for tourists to learn first-hand experiences about the traditions of the holiday. Tourists should also look out for performances of traditional Chinese music and folk songs, they are usually held at the main square in many cities.

Local Customs and Celebrations

In addition to the eating of Mooncakes and admiring the full moon, there are many other beautiful customs and celebrations related to the festival. For example, Chinese people like to light up candles on the streets to add to the festive atmosphere. In also not uncommon to see people presenting each other with lanterns, which is thought to bring people hope and happiness. There are festive markets where one can find various gifts for Mid-Autumn Festival, such as decorations, handicrafts, and lanterns. Fireworks are quite popular too, and they can be found everywhere during the holiday.

The festive atmosphere is further enhanced by dragon or lion dances, which are usually performed by kids at major streets. The performances consist of kids in lion or dragon costumes and statues, accompanied by music and drums. In some regions of South China, particularly Hong Kong and Macau, people like to celebrate with traditional boat races. Tourists can find these races in some of the coastal cities, or can attend body-puppet performances.

People in some areas may also celebrate with religious festivals. One of the those is the famous Hainan Tri-Dragon Festival, where people conduct ancestor worship. Participants offer food to their ancestors, such as golden pigs, and make sacrifices to please their deity. This custom is especially popular in villages from the eastern part of the country such as Fujian and Jiangxi.

In the big cities, such as Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong, there are numerous ways to celebrate the festival. Mid-Autumn Festival lantern shows, carnival activities, theater performances, sports events, and even cocktail parties are common within the city life during the festival.

Tips for Travelers

For travelers with limited time, some cities offer the best experiences for the festival. Beijing and Shanghai have some of the biggest festivities in the country, featuring a diverse array of activities, including lion dances, fireworks, and traditional markets. Hong Kong is also a great destination for travelers to experience a traditional Mid-Autumn Festival, with boat races and spectacular fireworks. In addition, many other cities organize their own Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations, including Nanjing, Nanning, Dalian, and Kunming.

As for the best places to admire the full moon, travelers can find many places offering a picturesque view of the moon. The city wall in Xi’an, a famous destination known for its ancient cultures, offers one of the best opportunities to witness the full moon. There are also beautiful sceneries at the peaks of mountains in the Yangtze River, the Li River in Guilin, and the Yellow Mountains in Huangshan. It is also not hard to find spots within the big cities to observe the moon.

When visiting China during the Mid-Autumn Festival, travelers should prepare appropriate holiday schedule and make reservations beforehand for attractions, transportation, and hotels. Before the big day, it is best to confirm the dinner bookings as places can be quite crowded on the nights of festival.

Having the necessary knowledge and preparation can be essential for travelers to ensure they make the most of the Mid-Autumn Festival. This helpful guide should provide some useful information and advice to those who would like to celebrate the holiday in China.

History of Mooncake

Mooncake has been an important part of the Mid-Autumn Festival for centuries. It is believed that Mooncakes first appeared during the Yuan Dynasty in the 14th century. Back then, it was an important weapon used by Chinese revolutionaries and activists to spread propaganda. There are many versions of the story, but the most popular one involves soldiers using the Mooncake to secretly send the message to the people that a revolt was planned.

Since this event, Mooncake has become a symbol of revolutionary spirit and good luck. Gradually, its meaning evolved to represent reunion and peace. In recent centuries, the recipe of Mooncake has become continuously more diverse with various ingredients. Traditional ingredients include lard, nuts, lotus seed paste, and egg yolk, while modern recipes often incorporate sweet bean paste, jujube paste, and assorted nuts. Nowadays, flavors of Mooncake can be very different from one region to another, and even from one store to another.

Today, many restaurants are using creative ideas to make Mooncake more inventive and attractive, offering unique flavors such as matcha, blueberry, and mango. Despite the many recipe changes over the centuries, the tradition of eating Mooncakes during the Mid-Autumn Festival continues.

Significance of the Festival

The Mid-Autumn Festival is a holiday not just containing Mooncake eating and admiring the full moon, but a holiday of deeper meaning and significance. For centuries, Chinese people have used this holiday as a way to express their thanks for the abundance of the harvest season. It has also been used as a day to thank their ancestors for their guidance and inspiration.

Having been passed down from generation to generation, the Mid-Autumn Festival has become an indispensable part of Chinese culture. Not only does it commemorate the harvest period, but it has also become a prominent connection between the modern and traditional culture of China. It is a day to remember the many contributions of the ancestors and to come together as a family and community.

Symbolically, the full moon on the night of the festival represents unity, which is why families and friends have the custom of gathering to view the moon. Tourists can find many picturesque and romantic locations to appreciate the full moon. In this way, the Mid-Autumn Festival offers travelers a chance to experience the culture of China on a deeper level.

Regional Variations

The Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated all across China, so there are some regional variations between activities and traditions. In the northern part of China, people around the capital Beijing usually side with the custom of eating Mooncakes and observing the full moon. In the south, someone in Guangzhou might follow the traditions of offering sacrifices to kitchen gods and decorating houses with lanterns.

In western parts of the country, traditional performances such as Dragon or Lion dances have a long-running status in the festivities. On the other hand, in areas such as Hong Kong and Macau, the holiday is more commonly celebrated with boat races and body-stilt performances. Meanwhile, local tourists in the eastern part of the country, which includes some of the provinces like Fujian and Jiangxi, take part in the Tri-Dragon Festival.

No matter where one visits the country during the Mid-Autumn Festival, there are numerous ways to experience the Chinese culture, from local customs and festivities to the historical significance of the event. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about the traditional Chinese culture, appreciate the beauty of the full moon, and indulge in the famous desserts.

John Melendez

John J. Melendez is a journalist, author, and commentator specializing in Chinese culture, politics, and international relations. He is a frequent guest on radio and television programs, and is the author of several books on Chinese culture and politics. He currently resides in Beijing, China.

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