Moon Festival © Malcolm Koo
One of China's most beloved cultural celebrations is the Moon Festival or Mid-Autumn Festival, marking the end of the harvest season. Celebrated during the full moon, the festival has been held annually since the Shang dynasty dating back about 3,000 years. It is now a Chinese public holiday as well, where families and friends gather together to give thanks for the harvest. The main symbol of the festival is the baking and eating of Moon Cakes: round pastries with sweet fillings, in Shanghai the favourite filling is red bean paste. Houses are decorated with coloured animal-shaped paper lanterns and altars are piled with round fruits to symbolise the shape of the moon. The evening is spent moon-gazing and enjoying the company of family, before a celebratory feast at midnight. Apart from being a traditional time for family reunions, the Moon Festival is also a romantic day in the Chinese calendar: many love poems have been written about it. It is thought that it is especially poignant for couples who are not together because watching the moon separately, from wherever they are, unites them. Matchmaking dances often take place for those who are unattached and looking for romance.
Date: 24 September 2018