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Marking the end of the autumn harvest, the Mid-Autumn Festival was traditionally a time to give thanks to the gods.
It is also a time of year that the moon is at its brightest, which is why lunar legends have always been attached to the celebration. One of the most notable is the story of Chang Er, the wife of a merciless king who downed the elixir of immortality he had intended to drink, so as to save her people from his tyrannical rule.
The tale goes that she ascended to the moon upon her brave act, and has been worshipped by the Chinese as a Moon Goddess ever since.
When dusk falls
Since the Mid-Autumn Festival is about lunar appreciation, celebrations go into full swing once the sun goes down.
Moon-viewing parties are a popular way to enjoy the occasion, as family and friends sit in gardens lit by the soft glow of paper lanterns, sip tea, nibble on mooncakes, and if so inspired, compose poetry in venerable Tang Dynasty fashion.
Lanterns all a-glow
Children love this festival because they get to tote lanterns. The traditional lanterns with wax candles are made from paper and shaped into everything from cars to cartoon characters. As a sign of the times, there are also plastic, battery-operated versions.
You’ll get to examine the former up close at some of the celebrations around the island, particularly in Chinatown where large beautiful lanterns will be on display—marvels of creativity, artistry and traditional craftsmanship.
Did you know?
The cute biscuits shaped like piglets encased in little baskets are actually made of the same dough as traditional mooncakes. Initially, they were the result of bakers testing oven temperatures on plain pastry, but became so popular that they are now a staple in their own right.
Mad about mooncakes
Without a doubt, mooncakes are the main highlight of the Mid-Autumn Festival. Legend has it that they helped to free Yuan China from Mongol rule, after rebels organised an uprising by passing messages hidden in these seasonal pastries.
Today, you’ll find them in many varieties, from traditional flavours with lotus seed paste and egg yolk, to snowskin versions filled with everything from chocolate to champagne truffle. They are best enjoyed with a strong, palate-cleansing cup of Chinese tea.
Festival goes virtual
The Mid-Autumn Festival in 2020 goes virtual with new digital activities and experiences for the family and loved ones. Held from 19 September to 16 October 2020, the festival will stream the light-up to audiences on social media.
In addition, families can participate in online activities such as mooncake making and lantern painting. The former includes tutorial videos featuring Tai Thong Cake Shop while the latter provides DIY lantern kits for families to download and paint.
Another highlight includes Zoom Escape Room: Chronicles of Chinatown where up to 60 registered participants will travel back in time to the 19th century and uncover the history of Chinatown through puzzles.
Find out more about the festival at https://www.chinatownfestivals.sg
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