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Marking the end of the autumn harvest, the Mid-Autumn Festival was traditionally a time to give thanks to the gods.

It is also a time of year that the moon is at its brightest, which is why lunar legends have always been attached to the celebration. One of the most notable is the story of Chang Er, the wife of a merciless king who downed the elixir of immortality he had intended to drink, so as to save her people from his tyrannical rule.

The tale goes that she ascended to the moon upon her brave act, and has been worshipped by the Chinese as a Moon Goddess ever since.

When dusk falls

Since the Mid-Autumn Festival is about lunar appreciation, celebrations go into full swing once the sun goes down.

Moon-viewing parties are a popular way to enjoy the occasion, as family and friends sit in gardens lit by the soft glow of paper lanterns, sip tea, nibble on mooncakes, and if so inspired, compose poetry in venerable Tang Dynasty fashion.

Lanterns all a-glow
Customers browsing and purchasing colourful lanterns

Children love this festival because they get to tote lanterns. The traditional lanterns by wax candles, made from paper and shaped into everything from cars to cartoon characters. As a sign of the times, there are also plastic, battery-operated versions.

You’ll get to examine the former up close at some of the celebrations around the island, particularly in Chinatown where large beautiful lanterns will be on display—marvels of creativity, artistry and traditional craftsmanship. You’ll also get to sample mooncakes and fine teas at the street bazaars, watch nightly performances and peek at lantern-painting competitions.

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Mad about mooncakes

Without a doubt, mooncakes are the main highlight of the Mid-Autumn Festival. Legend has it that they helped to free Yuan China from Mongol rule, after rebels organised an uprising by passing messages hidden in these seasonal pastries.

Today, you’ll find them in many varieties, from traditional flavours with lotus seed paste and egg yolk, to snowskin versions filled with everything from chocolate to champagne truffle. They are best enjoyed with a strong, palate-cleansing cup of Chinese tea.

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