Chinese Moon Festival: its origin, meaning, and mooncake

Featured Video Play Icon

This week is the Moon Festival, or Mid-Autumn Festival. China and various Asian countries celebrate, including chinatowns in western cities. Today I went to Chinatown in London to get one (or two) mooncakes.

The Moon Festival is the second most important holiday in China after the new year or Spring festival.

This year, the Mid-Autumn festival falls on the 4th October, but events and celebrations started last weekend.

What is the Moon Festival?

Moon Festival

The Moon Festival is a very ancient Chinese tradition. It was an occasion to celebrate for the harvest and worship the moon. The Festival takes place on the full moon of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, which usually falls between September and October.

Since ancient times, the Moon Festival is an occasion for families to spend time together, a bit like Christmas in Western countries.

The Mooncake

The Mooncake is the traditional Chinese pastry that families eat together during the Mid-Autumn Festival. The mooncake is a round shaped pastry that resembles the moon. The circular shape also represents the unity of the family and it is believed to bring good luck.

The mooncake is usually around 5cm to 10cm and you can find it in various flavours, although different regions have their own traditional mooncake.

mooncake traditional flavour

[Source: Kelly, China Highlights]

The mooncake has inside a full egg yolk, which also resembles the moon. I once had a Chinese colleague who told me that the mooncake is meant to be shared. You would cut the cake into slices, and the person who gets the slice with the full egg yolk will be lucky.

The Moon Festival in London

Chinatown in London was busier than usual with many bakeries and supermarkets selling mooncakes in various sizes, colours, and even fancy gift boxes. On the streets there were activities for children, including lantern decoration and calligraphy courses. We saw also various political manifestations and charity fundraising activities.

For me, the best part of the trip was wandering around in the many Chinese bakeries. I liked looking at the pastries they offer, so different from the rest of London! In the end I decided to try a bubble waffle with matcha gelato and nutella. But it’s probably more of a trendy fad rather than Chinese tradition!

Chinatown London bubble waffle









18 Replies to “Chinese Moon Festival: its origin, meaning, and mooncake”

  1. That’s very interesting. We always have the need to represent what’s beyond in our day-to-day items. Also, the similarities between distant cultures is astounding. Looking forward to your blog from China.

    1. I’m looking forward too! It would be great to see the celebrations in China πŸ™‚

  2. Interesting I never knew any of this about the moon cake I am going to have to try some now. We often went to a Chinese restaurant in Canada that celebrated this but I never realized the significance behind it. Now I am on a mission to explore the different moon cakes to see how they are made and taste.

    1. I’m glad this was useful! Yes here in London there are various flavours and colours, for example I remember seeing chocolate, although I would prefer trying more traditional ones πŸ™‚

  3. Super informative video and post! I have a friend in Vietnam and they celebrate something similar there as well and it looks like such a great event. I’ve never had a mooncake, but I am very curious to try them out. Thanks for sharing this unique cultural event!

    1. I’m glad you liked it! Yes go for it! I know that Moon Festival is celebrated in many Asian countries, but I wonder if in Vietnam they also have mooncakes or similar pastries

  4. Loved the video! Looks like an exciting festival, never heard of a mooncake before and now I want to try one! I’d like to try a bubble waffle too – how’d it taste?

    1. oh you should try! I think it’s a nice ritual to divide the cake between family members and eat together (the cake is small but will make you very full!). For the bubble waffle.. honestly I’m not going to have it again! I wanted to try the matcha gelato but I didn’t like it very much. Matcha is basically green tea leaves and you find it used pretty much everywhere in Chinese bakeries if you’re curious to try πŸ™‚

  5. What a beautiful festival. I’ve never heard of it. I would definitely like to try a mooncake. The bubble waffle looks good, too. Maybe I will get to try them there someday!

  6. Moon festival during autumn looks beautiful festival. You are lucky to attend these kinb of festivals and I would love to attend such festivals. There are so many variety mooncakes which I was not knowing. There are so many different rituals in many parts of world and love to read them like this.

  7. I had no idea about moon cakes nor did I know how important they were to the Chinese people. It’s interesting to me that this festival is only 2nd to their Chinese new year. I’m hoping to visit China myself this next year or so.

    1. If you could go on September/October you would be able to see the celebrations there! That would be very interesting, I read that in China is a one-week holiday

      1. Great to know! Hmmmmm looks like I will have to visit twice 😜

  8. Very interesting I like to learn about such different cultures.
    I read that these mooncakes were used for writing codes during war. They are then distributed on the pretext of eating but people got messages and united themselves for war. Check the link with my comment.

    1. That is very cool! I didn’t know that, thanks for your comment πŸ™‚

  9. Love your short but very informative posts! I did not know anything about the moon cake and now I am going to have to try some now! I often went to a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown when I lived there. I loved it!

  10. Chinese Moon Festival is quite an interesting one. You are lucky to attend this. I would love to be part of this festival someday. And the Mookcake or pastries looks delicious too.

  11. Thanks for the tips. Sounds like something really interesting and would like to be a part of in the future.

Have your say