Bring the family together to celebrate Hong Kong Mid-Autumn Festival 2021! It’s a great chance to eat mooncakes, make lanterns and gaze at the huge full moon. Find out more about the Chinese moon festival and check out the Mid-Autumn Festival activities for kids.
Whether you’re a born-and-raised 852 kid or a newbie to this bustling city, the Hong Kong Mid-Autumn Festival is a great holiday to celebrate with the family! There’s no doubt the 2021 Mid-Autumn festivities are still looking a bit subdued with the public Lantern Festivals have sadly been cancelled for the second year running. But, the famous Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance is back and promises to be spectacular.
This traditional festival is all about bringing the family together, so you can still celebrate the long weekend, eat plenty of mooncakes and encourage your kids to get involved with at-home activities. We’ve got the lowdown on the history and the food that goes together with the moon festival so you can enjoy it with the whole gang. Here’s our 2021 Mid-Autumn Festival Guide for families in Hong Kong.
When Is Hong Kong’s Mid-Autumn Festival 2021?
This year we’re celebrating the Mid-Autumn festival on Tuesday, 21 September (with Wednesday, 22 September as the public holiday).
The History of the Mid-Autumn Festival
Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the most colourful and quaint events in Hong Kong. It lights up the city with bright lanterns, light shows and fiery dragon dances.
Usually celebrated as a harvest festival, this long-held tradition dates back to the Tang dynasty (from around 600AD). It would also give workers far away a chance to return home to their families. At the time, people would gather to make offerings of food and drink to the moon goddess, Chang’e, paying their respects and giving thanks for the crops harvested during the year. Legend has it that Chang’e blesses her worshippers with beauty, so people lit lanterns in her honour (and to make sure that she can see them clearly from the sky).
The Mid-Autumn Festival is all about light, so a household really wouldn’t be complete without a fabulous lantern to guide the way. Historically, the lanterns were made from paper and lit with candles but nowadays they tend to be plastic, battery operated (safe and reusable is always a win, right, mamas?) and come in every shape and cartoon character you can think of. Be warned – some come with electronic tunes that play non-stop!
Family-Friendly Mid-Autumn Festival Activities
Throughout Hong Kong, you’ll find lanterns strung about ready to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival. Typically, Hong Kong is never one to shy away from celebrating local customs on a grand scale!
Fire Dragon Dance, Tai Hang
The Fire Dragon Dance is one of the most important events to experience over the holiday. Definitely one to cross off your Hong Kong bucket list! The Fire Dragon Dance that draws the large crowds for its liveliness, origin and reputation is found in the heart of Tai Hang village.
This traditional dance dates back to the 19th century when the Tai Hang villagers were dealing with catastrophe after catastrophe. From a raging typhoon to an awful plague, followed by an alleged python eating their livestock, the Tai Hang villagers simply couldn’t get a break. To get out of this bout of bad luck, a soothsayer said they needed to perform a fire dance for three days and three nights during the Mid-Autumn Festival. So the villagers created a large dragon made out of straw and then covered it with incense to ward off evil spirits. Along with loud firecrackers and drummers, the villagers danced for three days and, truth be told, the plague ceased.
You can catch this fiery and smoky performance every year in the back streets of Tai Hang village. We’re talking about 300 performers, 7,000 incense sticks and a 67 metre-long dragon that will leave you in a wide-eyed trance!
When: 8:15pm to 10:30pm, 20 to 22 September, 2021
Where: Tai Hang, Hong Kong Island (check out the parade route map for best vantage points)
Mid-Autumn Lantern Carnival Victoria Park
Sadly, there’s still no word about the famous community Lantern Festivals run by LCSD. You might have to get creative at home. We’ve put together some easy crafts so you can celebrate by making your own lanterns, drums, dragons and even mooncakes while you wait for bigger and better festivities to come in 2022.
Hong Kong pulls out all the stops when it comes to the intricately decorated and beautifully designed lanterns that are on display across various neighbourhoods all over the city. Besides the brightly lit lanterns, there are usually game stalls, palm reading and even traditional stage shows. This is truly the quintessential family activity to do over the holiday so mark your diaries for next year. Don’t forget your cameras and better yet, buy your kids their own lanterns at the stalls (which come in all shapes and sizes including their favourite Disney character!) to add to the fun.
The largest and most popular carnival is found in Victoria Park in Causeway Bay but there are usually lantern carnivals spread throughout Hong Kong.
Mid-Autumn Festival Lantern Displays
Be prepared for a thematic display of lanterns that will make your September a magical one with the littlest members of your family. Trust us, your kids won’t be the only ones ooh-ing and ahh-ing! Keep your eye out as you pass through the city’s shopping malls (our pick is Lee Tung Avenue in Wan Chai) for traditional and colourful Chinese lanterns.
For an even more immersive cultural experience, head on out to Wong Tai Sin. Take a stroll through the huge temple complex to soak in the festival atmosphere before heading indoors to the Temple Mall. There’s the 3.5 metre-tall Golden Autumn Lumiere interactive lantern installation, featuring a mirror-floored room full of lanterns that change colour with your movements. The mall is also hosting the Mid-Autumn Bazaar bringing you close to 100 flavours of mooncakes, including Earl Grey Tea Custard Mooncake, Vegan Snowy Mooncake, Taiwanese Taro Mooncake, 70% Pure Musang King Durian-filing Snowy Mooncake, to name but a few.
The Lowdown On The Mooncake
You either love ’em or could do without ’em, but the entire Mid-Autumn Festival revolves around having a sliver (or more) of this seasonal treat. Celebrated as a thanksgiving for the harvest, the main symbol of this season is the full moon represented in a mooncake.
It is said that in the Yuan dynasty, mooncakes were used as a means to pass secret messages between revolutionaries. Well, many centuries later, the mooncake has evolved into an assortment of different tastes. Typically shared between the entire family after a special dinner gathering, the cakes are traditionally filled with a smooth but dense lotus seed paste encasing an entire egg yolk at the centre.
An acquired taste for some, but once appreciated, you’ll be wondering what you ever did without one! Not to fret if you’re not a fan of the traditional mooncake, as there are many different variations to suit the changing palates of Hong Kongers.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published by Danielle Roberts on 11, September 2018 and most recently updated by Jess Mizzi in September 2021.