The Mid Autumn Festival is China's second most important festival, after the Spring Festival. Held every year on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar, the celebrations this year fall on September 8th.
The festival coincides with the autumn full moon, therefore it's also called the Moon Festival. In China, the full moon is considered to be a symbol of peace, prosperity and family reunion. The origins of the festival date back 3000 years to the days of the Shang Dynasty, when the moon's changes were closely associated with agriculture and harvest, and as such, people would offer a sacrifice to the moon in thanks.
On festival day, families gather together and offerings are still made to the moon. Traditional customs include burning incense, lighting lanterns and feasting on mooncakes. It's an occasion to celebrate, feast and enjoy time with loved ones.
Where to Celebrate Moon Festival
If you're in Shanghai over this three day holiday, there will be plenty of opportunities to join in the festivities. You'll see the moon at its best away from the city lights and high rise buildings. One of the best places to do this is at the Oriental Pearl TV Tower. At 468 metres high, it's the second tallest tower in China, and from any of its 15 observatory levels, you'll get a beautiful panoramic view of the city below and the moon above. It's easy to pair a trip up the Oriental Tower with your Shanghai Big Bus Tour – just hop-off at Stop 12 on the Blue Tour.
Another great place to get a good view is at The Bund. This waterfront area restricts building heights, so you're sure to get a clear view of the sky, plus it's full of bars, tea houses and restaurants, where you can sample local delicacies. Buildings are decorated with lanterns and the moon will be reflected beautifully in the water. Both the Red and Blue Routes stop at two points on The Bund – hop-off the Red Tour at stop 5 or 6, and the Blue Tour at stop 10 or 11.
An essential element of any Moon Festival celebration is feasting on mooncakes. Named for the moon goddess Chang'e, these delicacies are round pastries, encasing a sweet filling. Fillings include lotus seed paste, sweet bean paste or five kernel paste and cakes often include a boiled, salted egg which symbolises the moon. Mooncakes come in beautiful boxes, often given as gifts, and are traditionally cut into wedges and served with Chinese tea.
There's no shortage of mooncakes in Shanghai during the Mid Autumn Festival, but there are a few locations which are renowned for baking the best in the city. One of these is Xing Hua Lou, who have been baking mooncakes for over a century, offering 20 exquisite flavours. There are several branches across Shanghai, including at 343 Fuzhou Road - just 11 minutes in a taxi from entertainment district Xin Tian Di, stop 9 on your red Big Bus tour.
Godly Vegetarian also comes highly recommended. This Buddhist restaurant chain have made a name for themselves baking delicate, light mooncakes. Again, there are several of these eateries across Shanghai, but the branch at 317 Jinling East Road is just a 13 minute walk from Yu Garden, stop 8 on the Red Route – a beautiful, 5 acre park in which to enjoy your cakes!