Chinese Mid Autumn Festival Activities for Children
Chinese Mid Autumn Festival is celebrated on the 15th of August of the Chinese lunar calendar, which typically occurs between August and October of the western calendar.
Mid-Autumn Festival is a really fun holiday for the kids learning Mandarin Chinese because of all the kids-friendly traditions and delicious Chinese desserts. It is probably the second most important Chinese holiday after Chinese New Year. There are many ways to celebrate the Chinese Mid Autumn Festival with your little one, from lantern making to pomelo hat wearing. There are also a lot of legends and folklore about Mid Autumn Festivals that you can enjoy with your child.
Mid Autumn Festival Stories
There are many legendary stories associated with the Chinese Mid Autumn Festival. One of the most well-known stories is about Chang’e [ 嫦娥| 嫦娥 ] and Hou-yi [ 后羿 | 后羿 ], two lovers with a destiny similar to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The other popular Mid Autumn Festival story is about a man called Wu Gang [ 吳剛 | 吴刚 ] chopping a self-healing bay laurel tree on the moon. There are also stories about a rabbit that lives on the moon. Legend has it that a rabbit tried to sacrifice itself to feed three immortals disguised as beggars. The immortals were so moved by the rabbit’s bravery and compassion, they granted the rabbit eternal life with residence in the moon palace. As you can see, there’s a common thread in all the narratives, the moon. It’s no wonder why Mid Autumn Festival is also called Moon Festival!
Mid Autumn Festival Traditions and Food
I often think of Mid Autumn Festival as a Thanksgiving Holiday. It’s a holiday where family get together, give thanks and enjoy a huge meal! Here are some traditions that are commonly celebrated today:
Reunite with family
Like Thanksgiving, people travel back home to reunite with their families and enjoy a dinner feast. Common dishes you will find at a Mid Autumn Festival dinner are crab, pork, duck and ingredients made from fall harvests like persimmons, taro, chestnuts, sweet potatoes, walnuts and mushrooms.
Similar to 4th of July, Mid Autumn Festival is a holiday for barbecue lovers. Barbecue usually begins in the afternoon and continues late into the night. Rain or shine, or typhoon for that matter, my family would always have a barbecue for Mid Autumn Festival. I remember one year we had to set up our barbecue under the front porch awning because it was typhoon day with torrential rain. My brother was wearing a rain coat while attending to the barbecue.
Gaze at the full moon
Mid Autumn Festival always falls on a full moon night because it follows the lunar calendar. In Chinese culture, the full moon is a symbol of family reunion, so it is customary for families to gather together on this evening to gaze at the full moon over tasty mooncakes and juicy pomelo slices.
Another name for Chinese Mid Autumn Festival is Mooncake Festival. One easy way to know when Mooncake Festival is approaching is when you see mooncakes being sold at bakeries and Asian supermarkets. You can find individually packaged moon cakes and mooncake sets. The individual mooncakes are usually bought for your own consumption, the mooncake sets that are packaged in beautifully designed boxes are mainly for gifting. It’s a common tradition to send moon cakes to extended families, business acquaintances, and friends. I remember when I was young, we would receive boxes and boxes of mooncakes a couple of weeks before the Festival. It was always an exciting event to open the box and see what types of mooncakes there are. Since we had so many, we used to freeze the mooncakes to extend their shelf life.
You can’t celebrate Mooncake Festival without eating some mooncakes! There are so many kinds of mooncakes, from traditional lotus seed paste filling to chocolate ice cream filling. One thing that might be an acquired taste is the salted egg yolk that is often added to the center of a mooncake. For me, the saltiness balances the sweet filling, but if it’s not your thing, you can always buy ones without the salted egg yolks.
This is one of my favorite parts about Chinese Mid Autumn Festival. Back in the days, elementary schools often held lantern competitions where parents and their children submitted handmade lanterns that would take weeks to build. Those handmade lanterns are unlike anything you have ever seen. The shapes are formed by thin pliable bamboo sticks and the surface is made with colorful cellophane. When they light up, the lanterns glow like gems. Some of the popular lantern shapes are the koi fish, butterfly, Chinese zodiac, and the rabbit of course!
Depending on where you live, some places worship the moon and some places worship their ancestors during this time. People will often prepare food offerings such as fruits and meats and light up incense as part of their worship ritual.
Wear a pomelo hat and more
This might sound strange but wearing a pomelo peel hat is a common kid's tradition for Mid Autumn Festival, especially in Taiwan. The pomelo has to be cut a certain way to make a hat out of the thick skin. In the Mid Autumn Festival coloring page, I’ve drawn the little boy with a pomelo hat. If you would like to try to cut a pomelo hat, simply slice the top of the pomelo off, then make deep scores on the skin (not reaching the flesh) with your knife from top to bottom all the way around the pomelo (scores about 2” apart). Then peel away the thick scored skin from the top down. The skin will fan out like a flower with the pomelo flesh in the middle. Once the middle is removed, you have a cute pomelo peel hat! I like to keep the pomelo peel on the kitchen counter for a couple of days because it releases a refreshing, citrusy fragrance.
What are mooncakes?
Mooncakes are a staple for Mid Autumn Festival, they symbolize togetherness, prosperity and family unity. Moon cakes are made with a thin pastry shell filled with a sweet paste. To achieve the scalloped shape and delicate pattern design on the top, a thin pastry is lightly pressed into a carved mold. Once the filling is added (often with salted egg yolk in the center), the pastry skin is folded over and and pressed flat. The mooncake is then released from the mold by a light tap. The mooncakes are usually baked in the oven with a light egg wash to accentuate the intricate pattern. You can download our traditional mooncake coloring page to teach your child about mooncakes!
Besides the traditional mooncakes made with lotus seed paste or red bean paste, you can find a huge variety of moon cakes made with all kinds of fillings from ice cream to custard. There are also mooncakes that made with a thin layer of mochi instead of pastry shell. They are similar to mochi ice cream but with more exotic fillings inside like durian, sesame and more.
Get your little one excited with Chinese Mid Autumn Festival with our new activity book. Cut, paste, draw, toss and many more skill building activities!
More snapshots of activities from this Mid Autumn Festival activity book:
Mid Autumn Festival Vocabularies
Traditional | Simplified | Pinyin | English
月餅 | 月饼 yuè bǐng | Mooncakes
兔子| 兔子 tùzǐ | Rabbit
柚子 | 柚子 yòu zi | Pomelo
燈籠 | 灯笼 dēng lóng | Lanterns
烤肉 | 烤肉 kǎo ròu | Barbecue
中秋節 | 中秋节 zhōng qiū jié | Mid Autumn Festival
蛋黃酥 | 蛋黄酥 dàn huáng sū | Egg yolk pastry
嫦娥 | 嫦娥 cháng'é | Goddess of the moon
賞月 | 赏月shǎng yuè | Moon gazing
滿月 | 满月 mǎn yuè | Full moon
中秋節快樂 | 快乐中秋节 zhōng qiū jié kuà ilè | Happy Mid Autumn Festival
Practice writing and recognizing these Mid Autumn Festival Chinese characters with our Character Minibook series. These delightful minibooks are filled with interactive activities that make learning Chinese characters an engaging experience for your little ones From tracing the strokes in the correct order to practicing writing independently, they’ll develop confidence in their penmanship effortlessly.
Mid Autumn Festival Audio
Here is a video of all the common words for Mid Autumn Festival to help your little one with pronunciation. All the words are part of the flashcard set.