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Mid Autumn Festival: The Kid Friendly Guide to Mid Autumn History, Mooncakes and More

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Time to celebrate the traditions and culture of the Mid-Autumn Festival all over Singapore!

Mid-Autumn Festival is packed with kid-friendly activities, making it a great holiday to celebrate with the whole family! We’ve got the lowdown on the history, the food and a couple of ideas for fun things you can do with your kids – from indulging in traditional (and not-so-traditional!) mooncakes to making your own playdough mooncakes!

A Bit of History About the Mid-Autumn Festival

Celebrated annually around September or October, Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar. This year it takes place on 13 September.

The Mid-Autumn Festival dates back to the Song dynasty in China, over 2000 years ago, and was traditionally a time to give thanks to the gods in the belief that this would bring a plentiful harvest the following year. The festival also commemorates the legend of Chang’E, a selfless woman who drank the elixir of immortality to save the country from her ruthless husband and, in doing so, floated up to the moon to live forever. Legend had it that Chang’E blesses her worshippers with beauty, so people lit lanterns in her honour (and to make sure that she could see them clearly from the sky). Another legend tells the story of Buddha, who disguises himself as an old man and asks three animals for help. The fox catches a fish for him, and the monkey brings him some fruit, but the rabbit sacrifices itself as food. In gratitude, Buddha resurrects the rabbit and sends it to the moon to be honoured.

These days, the festival has become a time to celebrate the moon, food, family and friendsSince the Mid-Autumn Festival is about lunar appreciation when the moon is said to be at its brightest, celebrations ramp up once the sun goes down.

Historically, people used paper lanterns lit with candles to light their way in the evenings as they and their families went out for moon-viewing parties. Nowadays they tend to be plastic, battery operated (safety first right, mamas?), and come in every shape and cartoon character you can think of. Beware that some come with electronic tunes that play non-stop!

Teaching Gratitude

The mid-Autumn holiday is a time to be grateful for what you have, your relationships and your fortunes – it’s never too early to start fostering gratitude in kids. There are also some lovely children’s books about the mid-autumn festival, including Happy Mooncake Festival, Elena! by Dingli Stevens. This cute book is perfect for kids who want to know more about the Mooncake festival, the different types of mooncakes, and how lanterns are made. Elena talks about the Mooncake Festival with the Bunny in the moon. But is the Bunny real?

Mooncakes: the Legend

We love the pretty patterned baked mooncakes and the delicate snow skinned ones in a palette of pastel colours (although kids may prefer the more modern-flavoured snow skin mooncakes to the more traditional baked ones with salted egg yolk and red bean paste). Business partners and friends share gifts of mooncakes during this time. But why mooncakes? Legend has it that mooncakes helped to free Yuan China from Mongol rule. These baked treats were used by rebels to pass messages hidden inside them which culminated in a successful uprising.

Kid Friendly Activities

Get your kids to make mooncakes! Lots of shops sell mooncake moulds in Chinatown, or try a baking shop like Bake King. Little kids will love making playdough mooncakes in lots of different colours. Don’t have playdough at home? Make your own with our easy recipe and video here.

You can also get crafty using them as stamps, and making your own paper lanterns at home. Check out our nifty Mid-Autumn craft guide here.

Lead image by Gardens by The Bay. Lanterns image sourced via Chinatown Festivals. Mooncake molds image sourced via YouTube.

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