This year, the Mid-Autumn Festival was celebrated on 27 September. The festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, within 15 days of the autumnal equinox, on the night of the full moon, between early September to early October of the Gregorian calendar. The festival celebrates three fundamental concepts which are closely tied to one another: Gathering, such as family and friends coming together, or harvesting crops for the festival; Thanksgiving, to give thanks for the harvest, or for harmonious unions; and Praying (asking for conceptual or material satisfaction), such as for babies, a spouse, beauty, longevity, or for a good future. Traditions and myths surrounding the festival are formed around these three concepts.
The Chinese have celebrated the harvest during the autumn full moon since the Shang Dynasty (c. 16th to 10th century BCE). Morris Berkowitz, who studied the Hakka people during the 1960s, theorizes that the harvest celebration originally began with worshiping Mountain Gods after the harvest was completed. The celebration as a festival only started to gain popularity during the early Tang Dynasty (618–907 CE). One legend explains that Emperor Xuanzong of Tang started to hold formal celebrations in his palace after having explored the Moon-Palace. The term mid-autumn first appeared in Rites of Zhou, a written collection of rituals of the Western Zhou Dynasty (1046–771 BCE). Empress Dowager Cixi (late 19th century) enjoyed celebrating Mid-Autumn Festival so much that she would spend the period between the thirteenth and seventeenth day of the eighth month staging elaborate rituals.
It is difficult to discern the original purpose of lanterns in connection to the festival, but it is certain that lanterns were not used in conjunction with moon-worship prior to the Tang Dynasty. Traditionally, the lantern has been used to symbolize fertility, and functioned mainly as a toy and decoration. But today the lantern has come to symbolize the festival itself. Making and sharing mooncakes is one of the hallmark traditions of this festival. In Chinese culture, a round shape symbolizes completeness and unity. Thus, the sharing and eating of round mooncakes among family members during the week of the festival signify the completeness and unity of families.
These photographs were taken at Singapore’s Chinatown.