Festivals in Singapore: Lanterns, mooncakes and what’s on for Mid-Autumn Festival 2017

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 well clued on all things Chinese New Year, dazzling Deepavali and the big Hari Raya Aidilfitri festivities, but do you know the story behind Mid-Autumn Festival? Read on to find out about this local cultural experience (and check out some others while you’re at it) 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 with mooncakes at this time of year?

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. Hurrah! 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 4 October!
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 (get all that?). This year it falls on 4 October. 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 new 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 making colourful lanterns.

These Bakerzin mooncakes were demolished in the HoneyKids office within record time…

More on mooncakes
Traditionally made with 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! There’s currently lots of lively banter in the office over the snowskin vs traditional debate.

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 – check below for some great events around town! We’re all about creativity here at HoneyKids, so why not break out the craft kit with the kids and make your own lanterns to decorate your home? Insta-photo ops galore!

Tons! We’ve found mooncake making sessions and Mid-Autumn theatre, storytelling, and lantern walks…

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 Paintbrush (a fun cultural show involving traditional puppetry), Peking Opera theatre, performances and art and craft workshops. We can’t wait to try out the parent and child mooncake making workshop and the lantern making sessions.
When: 29 September to 4 October
Where: Esplanade, Theatres on the Bay

Autumn Harvest is happening at the Flower Dome right now. Photography: Choo Yut Shing via Flickr

Mid-Autumn Festival at The Gardens 2017
Watch as Gardens by the Bay becomes illuminated by the glow of handcrafted lanterns that 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. Be prepared to be wowed by the Garden’s largest lantern display yet: Waters of Prosperity spans a whopping 1250 square metres over the water! Autumn abundance is this year’s theme, which sets the scene for  lantern displays symbolic of bountiful harvests and good fortune. There will also be nightly cultural performances, a food street featuring delicious Asian delights, and Fun Zone where you’ll find craft booths offering cool activities like lantern decorating, umbrella painting and Chinese knotting.
When: 22 September to 8 October
Where: Gardens by the Bay

Chinatown Mid-Autumn Festival 2017
Hardly a big shocker, Chinatown is hosting a ton of celebrations on between 10 September to 9 October! Look out for nightly stage shows, craft activities for kiddos, a street bazaar and carnival as well as a special lantern making competition with cash prizes for small artistes of all ages up to 16 years (register free for this one at www.chinatownfestivals.sg/lantern-painting-competition). The opening ceremony will be lighting up Chinatown on 23 September from 7pm: expect dragon dances and fireworks!
When: 10 September to 9 October
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 in the heart of Chinatown!
When: 1 October, 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 session 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. Spots cost $30 each and the event is suitable for kiddos aged five to 13 years.
When: 30 September, 10am-11.30am
Where: Singapore Botanic Gardens, Botany Centre, Classroom 1 & 2 (Level 3), 1 Cluny Road, Singapore 259569
Registration: Online at www.nparks.gov.sg

Moonstruck – Sleepless in Lunar Palace
The Arts Fission Company presents Moonstruck, a contemporary dance-theatre performance using the familiar Chinese legend of lady in the moon (Chang Er 嫦娥,) to captivate audiences with a new Mid-Autumn story: Moonstruck – Sleepless in Lunar Palace. Suitable for the whole family, we say bring a picnic, find a spot under the moon in the Singapore Botanic Gardens and watch as mysterious characters dance to well known music inspired by Dvorak’s opera aria Song to the Moon. And it’s free!
When: 30 September, 7-8pm
Where: Singapore Botanic Gardens, Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage

Mid-Autumn music performance
Free, fun and full of great music, join musical talent Xpose, as they play familiar Chinese and English songs perfect for the Mid-Autumn Festival!
When: 30 September, 2-3pm
Where: Library@Chinatown, Programme Zone, 133 New Bridge Road, Singapore 059413

Like this story? Here’s more we think you’ll enjoy:
Singapore street photography: exploring colourful Chinatown
Neighbourhood guide to Chinatown
Quintessentially Singapore things to do with kids
Where to buy cheongsams and Mandarin-collars in Singapore