Mid-Autumn Festival


View from our living room window.

One night shy of the full moon.











Today, September 12, is the celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival in China. It is the 15th day of the 8th lunar month of the Chinese calendar. It is also called the Mooncake Festival, Lantern Festival, or Moon Festival. This festival is all about  happiness and reuniting with friends and family. When the family gets together they light lanterns, make food offerings to Chang’e the moon goddess,  and sit outside to eat the evening meal and enjoy the full moon.

To me there are many similarities to Thanksgiving. It’s a very busy travel holiday. Many Chinese use the opportunity to return to hometowns to visit family.  We have noticed a big increase in the amount of traffic. On Saturday it took Ben about 15 minutes to travel 1/2 mile. Like in the US everyone was busy gathering  what they need to celebrate.

Don't be fooled, they're not very good.

The grocery store displays reflect the traditional foods as well. If you just landed in China I think you would know a holiday was coming up if you walked into a grocery store. There are mooncake displays at every turn. They are the most traditional food for the festival. They have many variations depending on the area in which they are made. Most have lotus seed paste fillings and a flaky crust. The crust is usually stamped with the Chinese character for longevity or harmony. They are typically sweet but there are savory versions too. They are jam-packed with calories and fat grams. They aren’t very big, maybe 2 inches high and about 4 or 5 inches in diameter. They are cut into pieces  equal to the number of people in the family. To me this is where it’s good to be part of a big family (not likely here though). That means you only have to choke down a small bite. In hearing people describe them they’re a bit like fruitcake. You take them to everyone, everyone politely opens them and has a bite, and that’s it. Maybe I’m talking to the wrong people but that was my impression. I’ll be honest, I don’t like them. Anders received about 15 when he was away a few weeks ago. I tried one bite and was done. We gave them to Ben who was not really surprised that I didn’t like them and was happy to take them off our hands.

The very dry inside of the pomelo.

The pomelo is another traditional food. It’s a giant citrus that looks like a big old lemon and tastes like a sweet grapefruit. I bought one. I had no idea how to choose the right one. Should it feel heavy for its size, should it be yellow or green, should it give a little when squeezed, or should it smell ripe? I picked one and I think I did not choose correctly. Unlike other citrus there was not a drop of juice coming out when I cut into it and it had a dry texture. The flavor was nice but we couldn’t eat much of it because of the dryness. Oh well, there is always next year.

Chang'e, the moon goddess.

For me the best part is the lanterns. I bought 3 and am quite pleased with myself. I love them and will always have them hanging  in my house for the festival, even when we’re living in who knows where. Not surprisingly most feature Chang’e and the full moon. The apartment complex put them up all over this week and their’s are lit. They look pretty during the day and even prettier at night. We have seen them all over GZ and I can’t wait to go down by the river tonight after it gets dark to see if there is anything special. This is my first major holiday in China and in a country where traditions abound, it’s fun to learn.  

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!


About vikarenously

I am an ex-pat living in Guangzhou, China. I am married to the man of my dreams who has indulged my love of travel by working hard enough to snag two international assignments. Oh yes, I also have two amazing children who accompanied us on our first one to Switzerland and are now mature and responsible adults which makes it so easy for us to experience this adventure as empty-nesters. Experience it vicariously with Karen.

4 responses »

  1. I have to confess that I like mooncakes…lotus seed with a double yolk…the yolk makes the whole cake less sweet. I’ve yet to try a savory one and you can get them without the paste; they are filled with nuts and seeds instead.
    I think you want a pomelo with a smooth skin and heavy for the size. I can only remember eating the yellow ones. It is normally peeled and not cut with a knife. The segments are separated and you only eat the inside fruit and not the membrane of the segment. It is not juicy like an orange.
    I love how adventurous you are with food, but I guess it isn’t surprising since you like to travel so much.
    Happy moon festival!

    • Hey Laura, it’s OK that you like mooncakes. Really. Although you are the first person that has said so. Thanks for the hints on the pomelo. I think my mistake was that it was not very heavy for its size. I will not give up because I did like the flavor, just seemed kind of dry.

  2. Hope you enjoyed your day! Muir is due back at the end of the week for a few days and has said he will bring some mooncakes back so we can try them. When we were there, the restaurants were advertising for the holiday. Love your lanterns.

    • Have a great time with Muir. I’m sure he’ll be glad to be back. I will be very interested in your take on the mooncake. I had a mani/pedi today and we were talking about them and neither of the women in the salon liked them. They made quite animated faces when I asked. I don’t feel so bad.

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