The second-biggest event on the Asian calendar, the Moon Festival, also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival, was traditionally celebrated as a harvest festival. It is an auspicious event that is meant as a thanksgiving for the year that had passed and in hopes for a better harvest ahead.
Held on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, Moon Festival celebrations are a time to gather with family and give thanks to ancestors and the natural forces of the world. In 2016, the Moon Festival falls on September 15.
The Moon Festival is celebrated across the world, with an array of activities, such as moon gazing, savouring mooncakes, and watching dragon dances and lavish displays of colourful paper lanterns. For the most impressive festivities, set your sights on the major cities of China, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Thailand.
The Chinese Moon Festival legend can be traced back thousands of years to a time when farmers celebrated the mid-Autumn rice harvest and recognised the moon’s role in the change of seasons.
Over the years, special dishes were created to represent the moon, such as the iconic mooncakes. Other festival fare includes duck, taro, oranges, and rice cakes, all of which are traditionally harvested in autumn.
In Korea, the Moon Festival, called Chuseok, is a time to pay respect to one’s ancestors, typically with a banquet. Families reunite during this time and mark the occasion with rice-based dishes, such as songpyeon (sweet mooncakes made with red beans, chestnut, rice and pine), hangwa (confectionery), and sikhye (a traditional sweet Korean rice drink).
The Japanese Moon Festival, or Otsukimi, is a time for introspection and gazing at the moon, a practice known as tsukimi. Again, rice-based dishes are a signature here, with tsukimi dango (rice-flour dumplings) enjoyed by one and all.
Moon Festival celebrations in Vietnam, called Tet Trung Thu, are strikingly similar to the Chinese festivities. Also known as the Children’s Festival, Moon Festival in Vietnam includes lantern making, mooncakes and family get-togethers.
Likewise, Malaysia’s Moon Festival pays homage to the Chinese traditions, with dragon dances, lanterns and moon gazing. Also known as the Tanglung (Lantern) Festival, the Malaysia Moon Festival is marked with a family feast and mooncakes.
In Thailand, the Moon Festival is not an extravagant affair – instead, it is a time for families to gather together, to pray, exchange greetings, and worship the moon.
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