Mid-Autumn Festival Hong Kong: It’s a marvellous night for a mooncake

Mid-Autumn Festival may just be one of my favourite festivals in Hong Kong because just about everywhere makes the effort to look pretty. Admittedly, all it takes is a few paper lanterns scattered about, but at night time especially, it looks charming and uniquely Chinese.

Also know as Moon Festival, it’s held on the 15th day of the 8th month (of the lunar calendar, so roughly late September) when the moon is supposed to be at its brightest. There are many variants of the legend behind the festival, but I’ll tell you (in the best Chinese tradition!) the one that my mum told me.

A long long time ago, there used to be ten suns in the sky, which burnt away terribly at the Earth. The emperor commanded the most skilled archer in all the land, Hou Yi, to shoot down all but one of the suns – which he did, leaving us with the one sun we have today. As a reward, he was given a magic potion that would grant him eternal life and he hid it away at home. According to my mum’s version, Hou Yi became a tyrant, corrupted by power and ambition; on seeing this, his beautiful wife, Seung Orr, decided to eat the pill herself to prevent him from living forever (other versions have the wife finding and eating the pill accidentally). Upon eating the pill, she found herself becoming lighter and lighter and she began to float. Eventually, she floated out of the window, up into the sky and onto the moon where she lives today. She also has her rabbit with her, who you can sometimes see outlined on the moon.

If you’re a virgin to Moon Festival, there are only two things you need to know – lanterns and mooncake! Seung Orr adorns many a mooncake box and the traditional cakes are made with a yellow duck egg inside, representing the moon. Nowadays, there are all kinds of modern takes on the mooncake, including chocolate, mango, green tea or even ‘snowy’ ice-cream ones. We bought one that was shaped like a pig! It came in a miniature version of the traditional basket that real pigs used to be carried to market in the olden days and I love how he even has a little curly tail. Alas, he had to be decapitated and eaten – the filling was green bean paste – and my auntie said he looked a lot nicer than he tasted!

Lanterns are lit to accentuate the brightness of the moon and on the day of the Mid-Autumn Festival itself, paper ones are lit and floated off to the moon. This year, one managed to land on an MTR train, sparking a small fire, panic, evacuations, delays and talk of regulating lanterns more closely next year. As with mooncakes, lanterns have evolved with the times and you can get them in practically any shape, size or colour you desire, with inflatable musical cartoon character versions proving particularly popular with youngsters (so if it’s late September and you’re hearing a tinny tune in the dim and distant, it’s probably a toddler holding a blow-up Doaremon).

We went to the special market in Tsing Yi’s Maritime Square Mall, which is basically your one-stop Mid-Autumn shop. As you can see, the lantern stall was a riot of colour! We bought two ($35 each) – a pretty lotus flower and a gorgeous goldfish. You can see them in action in our flat below!

However, these are mere small fry compared to the lanterns that the government has built to mark the occasion. For all of Mid-Autumn weekend, Victoria Park in Causeway Bay is transformed into a luminous lantern extravaganza. It costs a small fortune but hey, who cares when it looks this spectacular?!

Check out my posts on more beautiful Mid-Autumn lanterns in Tsim Sha Tsui in Hong Kong here and here

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3 responses to “Mid-Autumn Festival Hong Kong: It’s a marvellous night for a mooncake

  1. Seung Orr was the wife who flew into the moon, Hou Yi was the archer. It’s good to see the Govt’s effort in developing the sense of appreciation of art & culture among the people of HKG, where was considered a cultural desert. You could never imagine the fun we used to have when we were kids on the night – we all had candle lit lanterns of all shapes in our hands, walking together into the darkness, boys made funny noise frightening girls, nobody liked to be at the end of the line, wind blew off the candle light or the flame too big & set fire to the lanterns, somebody ended up going home in tears! Happy days once upon a time!

  2. Dear Rachel
    I came across your little pig in real rattan basket through Google. I will be in Kowloon on 13 Oct 2015. I would like to ask please where did you buy them and whether you have seen them still. Thank you. Much obliged Wee lee

    • Hi

      Thanks for stopping by! I’m afraid I can’t remember the name of the shop but it was in one of the bakeries in Kowloon City (http://www.discoverhongkong.com/us/dine-drink/where-to-eat/kowloon-city.jsp); I’d imagine they do them for mooncake season every year. However, as this year’s Mid-Autumn Festival is on 27 September, I think they might all be gone by the time of your visit in October? Most shops in HK do not sell mooncakes all year round, only in time for the festival. If you have time, it’s probably best to check in-person though!

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