Festivals in Singapore: Lanterns, mooncakes and what’s on for Mid-Autumn Festival 2016

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The lanterns are out! Pagoda Street in Chinatown gets even more vibrant during Mid-Autumn Festival.
Time to light the lanterns and feast on mooncakes – the Mid-Autumn Festival is here! Learn more about this traditional festival that's all about family, togetherness and dazzling displays of light

In case you haven’t noticed all the beautiful lanterns around town and the abundance of mooncakes, it’s Mid-Autumn Festival time in Singapore! There are so many perks to living in a multicultural city – we love celebrating all the cultural events that make the local calendar so lively. Sure, you’re all over Chinese New Year and Hari Raya Aidilfitri, but do you know the story behind Mid-Autumn Festival? Read on to find out about this local cultural experience and and where you can join the festivities this year. Chinatown tends to be the hub of the celebrations, but we’ve been on the hunt to find out where kids can make lanterns, see beautiful lights and join in on some family-friendly fun…  and just what is the deal is with mooncakes at this time of year?

Mooncakes Mid Autumn F

Just some of the spectacular mooncakes we’ve enjoyed this year. Clockwise from top left: mooncakes from Intercontinental Singapore; a beautiful gift set from Shangri-La Singapore; more snowskin mooncakes from the Intercontinental; Minion mooncakes from Resorts World Sentosa!

The story that started it all…

Marking the end of the autumn harvest, the Mid-Autumn Festival is a time to show gratitude to godly entities. There are several folk tales disputing the origins of the festival, but the most popular, and indeed most romantic, is the tale of Hou Yi and his wife Chang’e. Long ago, the sky was filled with 10 suns, which burnt and devoured the greenery on Earth and caused people to perish at an alarming rate. A young archer, Hou Yi, came to the rescue when he used his bow and arrows to shoot down nine of the suns, saving the human race. As a reward for his heroism, The Queen Mother of the West presented him with a bottle of magic elixir, a potion that would guarantee his immortality. However, the archer didn’t want the gift, as he loved his wife more than the prospect of an eternal life without her (aww!). Instead of downing the elixir and sealing his immortal fate, Hou Li chose to hide it. Enter a dastardly student, Pang Meng, who tried to steal the elixir for himself. What Pang Meng didn’t bargain for was running into Chang’e, who thwarted the plot by drinking the elixir herself! As a result, Chang’e not only became immortal, but the potion caused her to fly higher and higher, until she reached the moon, where she was destined to spend eternity in her new role as the Moon Goddess. Hou Yi was heartbroken and so took action by moving a table laden with food and offerings directly under the moon in the hope that it would somehow entice his beloved back to earth. Ever since then, during the Mid-Autumn Festival, the traditions of offering worship to the moon and the Goddess have continued.

Mark your diary for 15 September!
Traditionally the festival is honoured on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese Han calendar and Vietnamese calendar (within 15 days of the autumnal equinox), on the night of the full moon. This year that falls on 15 September. Celebrations usually involve the gathering of friends and family (a reunion), to give thanks for the year’s harvest. It is also a time to pray for what you really wish for: perhaps a baby, a spouse, good health and longevity and a happy future. Family gatherings are sure to include mooncakes (washed down with Chinese tea) and the chance to get crafty by making some colourful lanterns.

More on mooncakes
Traditionally made of wheat flours and  stuffed with delectable fillings including sugar and lotus bean powder, these tasty little Chinese pastries symbolise family reunions. Many now feature snowskin textures and exotic flavours such as Champagne truffle, chocolate and even Singapore’s all time-fave fruit, durian!

Lovely lanterns
Making lanterns to release along the river is a traditional custom, but, thankfully, it’s widely acknowledged that this isn’t a good practice for the environment. There are so many other ways to appreciate the beauty of lanterns – see below for some great events around town! We are all about creativity here at HoneyKids, so why not get crafty with the kids and make your own lanterns to decorate your home with? Once they are beautifully strung up you’ll have the best Insta photo ops for sure!

The fireworks display at the Chinatown Mid-Autumn Festival 2014 celebrations.
Summer Pavilion’s new mooncake flavours! The red date ginger tea with longan and the assorted mini snowskin martini mooncakes are to die for.
Traditional mooncakes from Pan Pacific Singapore
Fullerton Hotel's snowskin treasures: White Lotus Seed Paste with Egg Yolk Snow Skin Mooncake, Pandan Gula Melaka Snow Skin Mooncake, Green Bean with Sweet Potato and White Lotus Seed Paste Snow Skin Mooncake.
Lantern light-up along Chinatown. Photograph: Choo Yut Shing
Jurassic Park themed lanterns at Gardens by the Bay
The magnificent sea palace lantern display at Gardens by the Bay

Whether you want to break out the craft box and celebrate at home by making your own lanterns, or join a fun workshop, lively performance, or colourful festival around town, we’ve found family-friendly picks for all:

Moonfest at the Esplanade
Celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival with Esplanade’s MoonFest, a festival for the young and old to gather over performances and activities. Featuring both ticketed and free programs, highlights include The Magic Lantern (a fun cultural show involving traditional puppetry), free Hokkien Opera performances and art and craft workshops. We can’t wait to try out the mooncake making workshop!
When: 9-11 September
Where: Esplanade, Theatres on the Bay

Mid-Autumn Festival at The Gardens 2016
Watch as Gardens by the Bay becomes illuminated by the glow of handcrafted lanternsthat will bring to life the stories of the Moon. Each year involves dazzling displays of light and colour, and a fusion of traditional and modern festivities. The Gardens will be transformed from 3-18 September: expect performances by local artists in collaboration with the National Arts Council, cultural activities, craft booths and a food street serving up fabulous fare. Want to join in with a lantern procession? Head on over at 6.30pm on 4 September to take part in the launch parade!
When: 3-18 September
Where: Gardens by the Bay

Chinatown Mid-Autumn Festival 2016
As we suspected, Chinatown is hosting a ton of celebrations on between now and 15 September! Look out for nightly stage shows, lantern-making activities for kiddos, a street bazaar and carnival as well as a special free Mid-Autumn guided walking trail (limited to 10 people per trail, so make sure to register at chinatownfestivalsg@gmail.com to save disappointment!).
When: Now until 15 September
Where: All around Chinatown!

Chinatown Mass Lantern Walk 
Grab your friends and family and join a mass lantern walk under the full moon, amidst the beautiful displays around Chinatown. It’s set to be a spectacular night, with dragon and lion dance troupes, a percussion band and cheerleaders accompanying the walk. The lantern walk will conclude with stage performances and a seriously cool pyrotechnics display!
When: 11 September, 7pm-10pm
Where: Starting Point – Kreta Ayar Square 

Lantern making and moon cake appreciation workshop
Come join the celebrations for the Mid-Autumn Festival with a lantern-making and mooncake appreciation workshop held at the ever-green, ever-gorgeous Singapore Botanic Gardens. As the day draws to a close, tuck into delicious mooncakes and learn a fact or two about the plant ingredients that can be found in the gardens.
When: 10 September, 10am-11.30am
Price: $30
Where: Singapore Botanic Gardens, Botany Centre, Classroom 1 & 2 (Level 3), 1 Cluny Road, Singapore 259569
Registration: Online at www.nparks.gov.sg