Hong Kong seems to come to life each fall with Mid-Autumn Festival. This is the time of year when weather is changing, kids are going back to school and many religions/cultures celebrate with holidays. Hong Kong’s Mid- Autumn Festival with Fire Dragons, lanterns on the beach and a carnival is an especially lively and colorful celebration. Children are fully expected to join in the celebrations and mine love it each year!
Mid Autumn Festival is on Thursday, September 15 this year. The decorations are already up all over town and there are lanterns being sold at every kiosk in all of the markets. The city is lit up with intricate lanterns every night and has been since mid September. This town takes it’s festivals seriously! The public holiday is celebrated on September 16.
Mid Autumn festival began two thousand years ago as a way of paying tribute to the Moon goddess. It is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th moon according to the lunar calendar. It is celebrated over three days with one of the days being a public holiday in Hong Kong. Grace Lin wrote a great children’s book on the holiday called Thanking The Moon.
The celebration occurs on a full moon, the roundness of the moon symbolizes reunion. Traditionally families get together for a feast, eating traditional foods of persimmons, Pomelos and moon-cakes. Moon-cakes are traditionally made from a sweet yolky dough filled with a lotus bean or red bean paste filling.
Lanterns of all different shapes and sizes are all over Hong Kong at this time of year. Children make lanterns from paper or cellophane and wire then light them with little flashlights and bring them to the beaches. Repulse Bay and other beaches are filled with children running around with lanterns creating beautiful necklaces of light by the water.
There is a special Lantern Display in TST outside the Hong Kong Space museum from September 2 until September 25. These are not the small ones we buy for the kids to bring to the beach. Artists and students create them and some are 6 feet tall. They are beautifully crafted and given the display goes on for almost a month one of the less crowded ways to see what the holiday is about. Lanterns are lit each night at 6:30pm.
In Tai Hang and Pok Fu Lum fire dragon dances are a sight to behold. Whole communities follow the dragon and the drummers, while lighting incense to ward off evil omens. Although loud and crowded these celebrations are joyous and tons of fun. The Tai Hang fire dragon dance is so famous China put it on the list of intangible cultural heritage. The Pok Fu Lum fire dragon dance is much smaller but it also gets less crowded and my kids have really enjoyed it in the past.
For a quieter celebration, although still crowded, many flock to the beach for picnics and to light lanterns while looking at the full moon. Repulse Bay beach is particularly popular mostly due to it’s size and facilities but any of the beaches will have people celebrating, and even the make shift displays on the beach are beautiful. Not to mention how happy the kids are to be playing late at night – don’t forget the glow sticks!
However you chose to celebrate, if in Hong Kong, celebrating is essential! Try a moon cake, head off to the beach, check out the lantern displays or see a fire dragon dance, any or all will leave you understanding and appreciating a bit more of Hong Kong.
Details: Victoria Park Carnival, Victoria Park, Causeway Bay, September 15, 8pm-11:30pm; Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance, Tung Lo Wan Road, Tai Hang, September 14-16, at 8:15pm; Pok Fu Lum Fire Dragon Dance, Pok Fu Lum Road, Pok Fu Lum, September 15, 7:00 -11:00pm.