Mid-Autumn Festival in Singapore

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Timings : 1 October 2020

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Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, Singapore Overview

Bright lanterns, colourful garlands, delicious food and exuberant gatherings- the Mooncake Festival adorns Singapore with the most vibrant colours and fills the air with an appetizing scent. The Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival is a traditional east-Asian celebration honouring the Moon Goddess Chang’e, held on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. This event is a harvest and thanksgiving carnival that celebrates the values of family, prayer, and love. Twinkling lanterns, bright garlands, rich mooncakes, mouth-watering Chinese snacks, and festivities are part of the celebrations, making this festival a must-experience for tourists.

Typically falling between the months of September and October, the Mid-Autumn Festival commemorates the love of the Moon Goddess and her beau, and thanks her for bountiful harvests. With the Chinese community comprising three-quarters of Singapore’s population, the Lion City is a great destination to witness the festivities. The Mooncake Festiva is a beautiful way to combine 3,000-year-old traditions with modern revelries – join in the fun party games and worship the celestial goddess while learning about the intricacies of Chinese culture. The delicious mooncakes are an added bonus!

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Mid-Autumn Festival Dates 2020

2019: 13 September, Friday

2020: 1 October, Thursday

The Mid-Autumn Festival Story

The full moon during the autumn has been worshipped by the Chinese since the Shang Dynasty, roughly falling between 1600 BCE – 1046 BCE. However, the worship began to be transformed into a full-fledged festival only during the early years of the Tang Dynasty (618 CE – 907 CE). The stories of the origin of the Mooncake Festival are quite a few. However, the ones that have been passed over the generations are the tales connected to Chang’E.

Legend of Chang'E
There are two different tales connected to the Moon Goddess of Immortality, Chang'E. According to Lihui Yang's "Handbook of Chinese Mythology", there was an excellent archer in the ancient past, named Hou Yi. He saved the earth and its people from the ten suns that rose and circled the sky together by shooting down nine of them, thus preventing the earth from scorching. This act of bravery led an immortal to admire him and present him with an elixir of immortality. Yi was married to Chang'E and did not wish to be immortal without her, so he handed it to her possession. However, soon after, one of Yi’s apprentices, Peng Meng, learnt of this secret and wished to use the elixir for himself. On the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar, he broke into Yi's house in his absence and pestered Chang'E to hand over the elixir to him. To prevent this, Chang'E drank the elixir herself and ascended to the moon. After Yi arrived, he learnt what happened and began a ritual of offering his wife’s favourite fruits and cakes in his yard. Soon, other people found out about the incident and out of sympathy, they also participated in these rites.

In an alternate version of the legend, after Hou Yi defeated the nine suns, he was declared king by the people. However, soon after his rule began, he became a tyrannical ruler. To live as an immortal, he asked for an elixir of immortality from Xi Wang Mu. To save the people from the immortal rule of the conceited Yi, Chang'E stole the elixir and drank it herself, following which she flew up to the moon and became the moon goddess. Overcome by spite, Hou Yi died soon after. As an offering to Chang'E for her sacrifice, the people started praising her and displayed cakes and fruits in their gardens and yards. Since then, the Mid-Autumn Festival began to be celebrated.

Mooncake Festival Traditions

Lanterns are now synonymous with the Mid-Autumn Festival. Gorgeous paper, cloth, and plastic lanterns are hung outside homes and stores all over Chinatown and the Singapore River. They come in a range of colours and sizes, right from traditional coin-shaped medallions to mythical dragons, lions, butterflies, ducks, and even popular characters from TV shows like Pikachu, Hello Kitty, and SpongeBob SquarePants! They are painted with bright colours and messages of prosperity and are hung from high poles. Lantern painting competitions are held in the streets too; in some competitions, visitors are tasked with finding the answers to riddles written on the lanterns. Wish-making lanterns are set afloat by dewy-eyed couples, in hopes of sealing their romance forever. Flying sky lanterns are sent off into the night sky towards the moon, giving the sky an ethereal, starry glow. The reflection of the lanterns on the waters of the Singapore River, and the twinkling lights floating to the heavens above look breathtaking. This visual feast is a must-watch!

Celebrations at the Mooncake Festival are incomplete without mooncakes – delicious wheat flour pastries filled with nuts, lotus seeds, red bean paste, fruits, and eggs. Round in shape to symbolize reunion and togetherness, mooncakes are a staple during the Mid-Autumn Festival in Singapore and are made in homes and bakeries alike. Meant to be shared with the entire family and distributed to friends as a symbol of gratitude, these mouth-watering pastries are available in a variety of flavours as well  - Singapore is popular for Durian-flavoured mooncakes so give that a try!

Mooncake Singapore
The Mooncakes

Family meals are an important part of the Mooncake Festival. Fresh fruits like pumpkins, grapes, pomelos, peaches, pears, and pomegranates are offered to the gods and shared with visitors – visit the street food stalls to try the scrumptious seasonal fruit salads! Sip on traditional cassia wine or tea, and munch on soy bean-infused snacks, walking through the decked-up streets of Chinatown during the festival.

As the entire family comes together, the Mid-Autumn Festival celebrates romance and marriage too. Women pray to the moon goddess to bless them with a long-lived marriage, while men proposition their loved ones with moon poems and songs. Courtship games are also held in Chinatown. Let romance pervade the air and indulge in the festivities at this festival!

Games and Other Activities
Traditional children’s games are played during the festival, including variations of tag and toad jumping. Almost a hundred years old, these games are enjoyed by adults and kids alike – street games, singing competitions, and karaoke are popular in Chinatown during this time. At night, the entire community gets together to gaze at the beauty of the full moon and sing songs.

Best Places to Witness the Mid Autumn Festival in Singapore

Chinatown is a must-visit during the festival, as the streets are decked up in garlands, streamers, and glowing lanterns. Street food stalls sell mooncakes, tea, wine, and other delicious snacks. Traditional Chinese bamboo gifts are sold by hawkers, and carnivals are organized for an entire month. Street performances, culture trails, and lantern walks are also held, that add to the festivities. Keep in mind that Chinatown will be incredibly crowded during this time.
How to Reach
Chinatown is at Outram District in Singapore’s Central Area.
MRT: Take the Northeast Line or Downtown Line to Chinatown MRT Station. This is located at the heart of the district. Clarke Quay, Raffles Place, Outram Park, and Tanjong Pagar MRT Stations are a short walk away from Chinatown.
Bus: Buses 13, 147E, 166, and 33 ply to Chinatown Point Bus Station.
Chinatown Singapore during Mid-Autumn Festival
Chinatown decked up for the Mooncake Festival
Chinese Garden
The traditional Chinese architecture at this Garden is beautified even more during the Mooncake Festival, with gorgeous lanterns and streamers decorating the pavilions and bridges. Stalls sell festive food, while lights adorn the flowers and give the Garden a magical air. Lantern making workshops are also held here.  
How to Reach
Chinese Garden is at the eastern side of Jurong Lake Gardens
MRT: Take the Boon Lay Way or East-West Line to Chinese Garden MRT, and follow the signs to the garden.
Bus: Buses 49, 98, 98M, 187, and 335 ply to Lakeside Station. The Garden is a short walk away.
Singapore River
Along the Singapore River, revellers set afloat gorgeous lanterns and lights. Enjoy the otherworldly beauty of the Mooncake Festival along this historical river, and visit the nearby cafés for quick snacks and party games.
How to Reach
Singapore River runs along the city – Clarke Quay is a good starting point where visitors can get a great view of the river and the skyline.
MRT: Take the North-East Line to Clarke Quay MRT and walk along the river to find a good spot.
Gardens by the Bay
Witness larger-than-life lantern displays in action and stroll through glowing floating lanterns at Gardens by the Bay, and take part in a lantern walk too. Enjoy the stunning light show near the Supertrees too!
How to Reach
Gardens by the Bay is located at Marina Gardens Drive in Supertree Grove.
MRT: Take the Circle Line or Downtown Line to Bayfront MRT, and walk across Dragonfly Bridge to reach the Garden.
Bus: Take bus 400 to reach Marina Gardens Drive station, and walk to the Garden. 
Display at Gardens by the Bay for Mid-Autumn Festival
Display at Gardens by the Bay for Mid-Autumn Festival (Source)
Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay
Moonfest at Esplanade is an annual carnival held to commemorate the Mid-Autumn Festival in Singapore. Indulge in carnival games, Chinese instrument workshops, shadow puppet shows, theatre performances, and street opera shows at this two-day fete!
How to Reach
Theatres on the Bay is located at Esplanade Drive, Singapore.
MRT: Take the Circle Line to Esplanade MRT, or North-South Line to City Hall MRT. Esplanades – Theatres on the Bay is a short walk away.
Bus: Buses 36, 56, 70M, 97, 97E, 106, 111, 133, 195, 531, 700A, 857, 960, 961, 1N, 2N, 3, 4N, 5N, 6N, NR1, NR2, NR5, NR6, and NR8 ply to Esplanade Bus Station.
Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre
The Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre offers mooncake-inspired escape room games, BINGO nights, and planetarium shows as part of the Mid-Autumn festival.
How to Reach
The Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre is located in Singapore’s Central Area.
MRT: Take the East-West Line to Tanjong Pagar MRT Station and walk to the Centre.
Bus: Buses 531, 541, 546, 547, 530, 587, 588, 598, 599, 971E, and 982E ply to Temasek Tower Station. The Centre is a short walk away.
The Lantern Festival at VivoCity is worth a visit – the AR-integrated lanterns modelled after Alice in Wonderland take patrons on a wild adventure, with Chinese easter eggs along the way!
How to Reach
VivoCity is located at HarbourFront, near Telok Blangah Road.
MRT: Take the North-East Line or Circle Line at HarbourFront MRT Station.
Bus: The following buses go to HarbourFront Station: 10, 30, 30E, 57, 61, 65, 80, 100, 123, 123M, 131, 143, 145, 166, 855, NR1, NR6

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