Mid-Autumn Festival will soon be upon us, which means it’s time to break out the lanterns to honour the long-time tradition of families giving thanks for the harvest. Held on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month in the Chinese calendar, the 2023 Hong Kong Mid-Autumn Festival is on Friday 29 September with a public holiday on Saturday 30 September. Here is our ultimate guide to finding lanterns, a fire dragon dance and mooncakes in Hong Kong!
What’s the festival all about?
The festival historically marks and celebrates the end of the autumn period of harvesting crops. During this thanksgiving celebration, families would traditionally gather to eat mooncakes in Hong Kong 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.
There are lots of legends surrounding this cultural festival, including the tale of famous archer Hou Yi and his beautiful wife Chang’E. In ancient times, 10 suns are said to have existed, making the heat unbearable. Hou Yi became a hero after shooting down nine of the ten suns. He 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 also another popular story behind the origins of mooncakes in Hong Kong. During the Yuan Dynasty, the Han Chinese used the sweet treats 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.
So, how do people recognise Mid-Autumn Festival in Hong Kong these days? Well, we still come together to celebrate with family – and, for many expats, that can mean being with our close friends because we’re away from family back in our home countries.
A must-see event over the course of the festival period is the enormous fire dragon dance in Tai Hang. At this event, a Chinese dragon constructed with 70,000 glowing incense sticks winds through the streets down to Tin Hau, behind Causeway Bay. It’s quite a sight! (For details, visit taihangfiredragon.hk.)
If you can’t make it to Tai Hang, the good news is that there are local gatherings held all over the city. Here’s our guide to some of the best places for enjoying the festivities.
#1 Fire Dragon Dance at Pok Fu Lam Village
This may be a smaller scale version of the Tai Hang fire dragon dance, but for those in the Pok Fu Lam neighbourhood, it’s a great option. The event is all about community, so make sure you don’t miss it if you live nearby. It’s being held on 28 and 29 September, from 6.30 to 11.45pm.
#2 Causeway Bay Urban Mid-Autumn Lantern Carnival
Lantern Carnivals are held in a few places across the city. This one in Causeway Bay’s Victoria Park is a must-see for those living on the Island. The event is happening from 23 September to 2 October and it features beautiful lanterns, cultural performances and stalls with games. There’s also a similar carnival at Tsing Yi Park.
#3 Lantern Display at TST
Not to be confused with the Spring Lantern Festival (which happens at the very beginning of the year), the Hong Kong Mid-Autumn Festival Lantern Display along the promenade at TST is lovely. If you live on the Island, take the Star Ferry over after sunset and check it out. It starts right near the clock tower, so you can’t miss it. This year, the display will last three weeks, from 15 September to 8 October.
#4 Local Beaches
If you live near Shek O Beach, Discovery Bay’s Tai Pak Beach, Repulse Bay Beach or many other beaches, you can head there and you’ll likely find your community gathered with lights. It’s a fun evening for the kids and many families bring a picnic.
Festival Tip: Say no to glow sticks!
Glow sticks are popular at these events but please keep in mind they’re very damaging to the environment. This is single-use plastic at it’s worst. So, keep the glow sticks at home and try a lantern with a torch.
Want to find out about other traditions like the Mid-Autmn Festival in Hong Kong? We have a heap of trivia and interesting things to discover in our Living in Hong Kong section
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