The mid autumn festival, or the moon-cake festival, happens every year in Chinatown around mid September. With not a clue what it was all about, I went over to check it out.
When is it, again?
The mid-autumn festival is on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar, which falls during September or October in our Gregorian calendar. The date varies each year. In 2012, when I took the pictures below, it was on September 30th. In 2015, it is on September 15th.
Where is the best place to catch it?
Obviously, China. But I have been lucky to catch the festival in Singapore, where there is a sizeable Chinese population, and they celebrate it with the same fervour and colour, if not more, than China.
If you have been to Chinatown in Singapore, you would know how busy it is. So, imagine a day where the people in Chinatown multiply around 10 times? That was Chinatown on 30th September, the opening day of the moon-cake festival in 2012. I happened to be there (And no, I wasn’t the only Indian!!) at the eve, and happened to carry my canon with me. So, what followed was a clickathon!! 🙂
The mid-autumn festival (or moon cake festival, or lantern festival, whatever you wish to call it) is primarily a harvest festival in the Chinese and the Vietnamese calendars. Apart from Singapore, the festival is also celebrated in all other countries which have Chinese populations. To the extent that it is a public holiday in China and Taiwan.
The festival denotes 3 things that are central to Chinese culture: gathering, thanksgiving and praying. And a crucial part of the festival is the moon worship. While it may originally have been an occasion to mark the success of a good harvest season, it is nowadays – at least, in Singapore – an occasion for families and friends to get together and watch some Chinese cultural events. And eat moon cakes. Plenty of moon cakes.
Another notable part of celebrating the mid-autumn festival, is the use of colourful lanterns, hence giving it the alternate name of lantern festival. And there was also talk about some moon-viewing parties, but I am pretty sure those parties were not happening in the chaos of Chinatown.
Celebrations run for almost the whole day, which include traditional Chinese dance performances, colourful wushu mock-fights, the lion and dragon dancing, and even some musical performance. This year, there was even a family on unicycles to entertain the crowd.
If you are in Singapore, another interesting place to watch the moon cake festival, would be the Chinese gardens. But given that I choose to watch it at Chinatown this year, will have to come back some other year to watch the festivities at the Chinese gardens.
Tips for Mid-autumn photography
1) Try to get there early. Unless you are fine with trading elbows with elderly Chinese people who come to see the festivities early.
2) September is hot in Singapore. So, carry a bottle of water.
3) The chances of you getting close to the performers in very low, with all the crowd. So, carry a good telephoto or zoom lens with you.
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