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Celebrating Mooncake Festival

07 September 2023

Celebrating Mooncake Festival

Get ready to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival in style, explore its history, and discover the dishes shared to celebrate, including rice cakes and mooncakes.

What exactly is Mooncake Festival? 

This Chinese celebration, also known as Moon Festival or Mid-Autumn Festival, is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese lunisolar calendar, when the moon is full and bright. The massive celebration has a rich history dating back over 3,000 years, quite tightly tied to the legend of the Moon goddess, Chang’e.

Who is Chang’e?

The story goes that Chang’e was banished to an eternity on the moon as punishment for stealing her husband’s secret to immortality. While other tales suggest she drank the elixir to protect it from falling into the wrong hands. In her ascension to the heavens, she decided to take up residence on the moon, so she could stay close to her husband. Chang’e remains on the moon today with her giant white hare companion, often depicted working a pestle and mortar – making more elixir.

Fun fact: NASA’s Apollo 11 ground team told the astronauts in 1969 to look out “for a lovely girl, with a big rabbit” as they approached the moon. Buzz Aldrin replied to Houston, confirming he’d “keep a close eye out for the bunny girl”.  

Alongside the Moon goddess, the festival also celebrates the gathering of friends and family; thanksgiving for the harvest; and prayers to spouses, beauty, longevity and the future.  

Food is eaten during the Mid-Autumn festival?

Rice cakes and mooncakes are all the rage during the Mid-Autumn festival. The sweet rice cakes (Nian Gao), are most often coloured yellow or white, made with short-grain glutinous rice, flour, sugar and water. 

Mooncakes on the other hand are rich, dense pastries, typically filled with sweet-bean, egg yolk, meat or lotus-seed paste. They’re often decorated with intricate patterns of Chang’e’s moon palace or a cinnamon tree, or moulded into the shape of rabbits.

Celebrating Mooncake Festival

What is the tradition of mooncakes

Sharing mooncakes is a major part of the Mid-Autumn Festival. However, the detailed work required to make them, coupled with the custom of presenting them as a gift to visiting colleagues, has caused the price to skyrocket during the celebration. In Singapore, a box of four can cost as much as US$60.

Nowadays, they’re rarely homemade, given how labour-intensive the process is. So if you’re looking to try the Mid-Autumn Festival’s official food, hit the shops before everything kicks off.

To delve into more cultures and traditions, continue exploring our blog for more.