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The Mid-Autumn Festival In Hong Kong: Celebrate Its Traditions And Culture

Mid-Autumn Festival celebrate hero
What's OnPost Category - What's OnWhat's On - Post Category - Things to Do With Kids in Hong KongThings to Do With Kids in Hong Kong

This Mid-Autumn Festival, grab the fam and celebrate what’s known to be a beautiful and exciting event!

Whether you’re a born-and-raised Hong Kong kid or a newbie to this bustling city, the Mid-Autumn Festival is a great holiday to celebrate with the family! We’ve got the lowdown on the history, the festivities, and the food you can enjoy with the whole gang. Here’s our 2018 Mid-Autumn Festival Guide for families in Hong Kong.

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 a long-held tradition dates back to the Tang dynasty (from around 600AD). This occasion shared a dual function, as it meant that many family members working away from home had a chance to return to their extended family for the holiday. 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 could 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 (safety first right, mamas? And they’re reusable!) and come in every shape and cartoon character you can think of. Beware that some come with electronic tunes that play non-stop!

The holiday is a time to be grateful for what you have, your relationships and your fortunes. It’s a refreshing, feel-good holiday – our favourite type.

Mid-Autumn lantern

The Family Friendly Activities

Throughout Hong Kong, you’ll find lanterns strung about ready to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival. As you may or may not know, Hong Kong is never one to shy away from celebrating local customs on a grand scale. There are several ways you can bring your family out to join in the revelry of this festival. Here are a few places to check out.

Fire Dragon Dance
Touted as one of the most important events to experience over the holiday, this is dance is definitely one to cross off your checklist. The Fire Dragon Dance can be watched all over the city, but the one that draws the large crowds for it’s 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, to an alleged python eating their livestock, the Tai Hang villagers simply just 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 the evil spirits. Along with loud firecrackers and drummers, the villagers danced for three days and, truth be told, the plague ceased.

To this day, 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! If your little one isn’t a fan of loud noises (and the smoke!), we recommend standing further away from Wun Sha Street. You can still see the wonderful spectacle but at a safe distance.

There is also a popular dance in Pok Fu Lam and in Victoria Park, if those are closer to your neck of the woods. The Victoria Park Fire Dragon dance is actually the same troupe of dancers from the Tai Hang Fire Dragon dance. The Hong Kong Tourism Board decided to extend the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance to Victoria Park on the eve of Mid Autumn Festival in order to conjoin the existing lantern display. This makes for one stellar celebration, however, due to the limited space the dance is not as spectacular as the one that traverses in Tai Hang.

Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance
When: 23 to 25 September
Time: 8:15pm to 10pm
Tai Hang, Causeway Bay along Lily Street, Ormsby Street to Tung Lo Wan Road.
(You get a fab view from Wun Sha Street!)
How much: 
Free entry
For maps and further details see the Tai Hang Fire Dragon website.

Pok Fu Lam Fire Dragon Dance
When: 23 to 25 September
Time: 6:30pm to 11:45pm
Entrance to Pok Fu Lam Village. Route follows Wah Fu Road to Waterfall Bay.
How much: 
Free entry

Victoria Park Fire Dragon Dance
24 September
Time: Approx. 10:30pm to 11pm
Victoria Park, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
How much: 
Free entry

Mid-Autumn Lantern Carnival
If you’ve never walked through a Mid-Autumn Lantern Carnival in your life, you’re in for a real treat! The 852 pulls out all the stops when it comes to the intricately decorated and beautifully designed lanterns that are on for display across various neighbourhoods all over the city. Besides the brightly lit lanterns, there are usually game stalls, palm reading and even traditional shows put on stage. This is truly the quintessential family activity to do over the holiday. Don’t forget your cameras and better yet, buy your kiddos their own lanterns at the stalls (which come in all shapes and sizes including their favourite Disney character too!) to add to the fun.

The largest and most popular carnival is found in Victoria Park in Causeway Bay but there are lantern carnivals spread through out Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Island
Main Carnival – 24 September; Youth Night – 23 September
Time: Main Carnival – Approx. 8pm to 11pm; Youth Night – 7:30pm to 9:30pm
Where: Victoria Park, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
How much: Free entry

New Territories
East Mid–Autumn Lantern Carnival
Carnival Night – September 23, 2018; Youth Night –22 September
Time: Carnival Night – 7:30pm to 10pm, Youth Night – 7:30pm to 9:30pm
Where: Tai Po Waterfront Park, Dai Hei St, Tai Po, Hong Kong
How much: Free entry

West Mid–Autumn Lantern Carnival
When: Carnival Night – 25 September; Youth Night – 24 September
Time: Carnival Night – 7:30pm to 10pm; Youth Night – 7:30pm to 9:30pm
Where: Tuen Mun Park, Tuen Mun Heung Sze Wui Rd, Tuen Mun, Hong Hong
How much: Free entry

Festival lantern

Mid-Autumn Lantern Displays

Be prepared for a thematic grand display of lanterns that will make your September a magical one with the littles. From dragon dance fiestas, glorious lantern and LED displays, to giant-sized rabbits, trust us, your kids won’t be the only ones ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the beautiful displays!

Lee Tung Avenue
This happening street has loads of family-friendly activities going on during the Mid-Autumn Festival. For the first time, Lee Tung Avenue will turn into the “Avenue of Lights” with over 800 colourful lanterns in which visitors can control through the Lee Tung Avenue mobile app. Lee Tung Avenue is also hosting a gorgeous internationally renown art display by Australian artist, Amanda Parer, in which you will be able to walk among 10 giant-sized light up rabbits! Lee Tung Avenue will also have a Mid-Autumn Fair in which kids (and adults) can partake in variety of crafts like lantern-making, sugar candy-blowing, knot-tying and more. To top it all off, the LED Fire Dragon Fiesta will light up the night with its awe-inspiring dragon display.

LED Fire Dragon Fiesta and Mid Autumn Fair

When: 23 to 25 September
Time: Mid Autumn Fair – 4pm to 6pm; Fire Dragon Fiesta – 8:30pm to 9:30pm
Where:  Along Lee Tung Avenue, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
How much: Free entry

Amanda Parer’s Moon Rabbit Exhibit
When: 19 September to 17 October
Where: Along Lee Tung Avenue, Wan Chai and at China Hong Kong City Mall, 33 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
How much: Free entry

Hong Kong Culture Centre: “To the Moon” Lantern Display
Each year, the Hong Kong Culture Centre puts on an interactive themed lantern display during the Mid Autumn Festival with a unique theme specific to the Mid Autumn festival. These displays make walking along the promenade and viewing Victoria Harbour even more beautiful while the amazing displays make great photo-ops for a ‘lit’ family photo.

When: 15 September to 1 October
Time: 6:30pm to 11pm (extended to midnight on 24 September)
Where:  Hong Kong Culture Centre Piazza, 10 Salisbury Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
How much: Free entry


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 a quarter!) 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!

But not to fret, if you’re not a fan of the traditional mooncake as there are many different variations nowadays to suit the changing palettes of Hong Kongers. From decadent pure chocolate and praline ones (we love the chocolate ones at The InterContinental Hong Kong!) to custard-filled to the mochi and ice cream variety, you’re bound to find one you’ll like to share with the family and friends this holiday.

Feature image courtesy of Getty Images; image 2 courtesy of Brian Jeff Beggerly via Flickr; image 3 courtesy of Brian Jeff Beggerly via Flickr; image 4 courtesy of The InterContinental Hong Kong via Facebook; image 5 courtesy of MK2010 via Wikimedia Commons


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