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How Chinese Celebrate Moon Cake Festival

Updated on October 13, 2019
SueM11 profile image

Sue is a mother and grandmother living in sunny Malaysia. Like many Malaysians, she is passionate about food.

Moon Cake Festival
Moon Cake Festival | Source

A Festival Celebrated During Autumn

Moon Cake Festival celebrated in Autumn is one of the most important festivals for the Chinese. No matter where they make their home, this is an annual celebration to enjoy moon cakes and for kids to play with brightly lit lanterns when the moon is full.

To many it is also known as the Mid Autumn Festival. For Chinese living in Malaysia, this is one of the top 10 festivals In Malaysia. Sometimes it is just referred to as "the fifteenth day of the eighth month".

A Variety of Moon Cakes


Time for reunions, mooncakes and lanterns

Moon Cake Festival as it is commonly known was celebrated on 13th September 2019. It is the second most important celebration in the Chinese calendar after the Chinese New Year and is a time for family reunions.

These days, the celebration is not only enjoyed by the Chinese alone but also other races. Halal moon cake for Muslims is a testimony of how the festival has evolved here.

The colorful display of lanterns in the shopping malls reminds everyone of the coming celebration. The children love the many varieties of lantern designs. Lantern parades are often organised by neigbourhoods and even malls so kids can join in the fun.

Lanterns with Animal Designs - Fish, Rabbit, Butterfly


Winnie The Pooh And Tigger Lantern

Legend Of The Lady In The Moon

Romantic tale of an archer and his annual visit to his wife

As with most Chinese festivals, there is always a story behind it which is passed down from one generation to the next. The Moon Cake Festival is no exception. The most famous story is of course about an archer and his wife in ancient China.

There were ten suns which were taking turns to circle the world. One day they all appeared at the same time and the heat they generated was so intense that it caused everything to dry up. the Emperor of China ordered the archer, Hou Yi to shoot down nine of the suns. He was gifted with an immortal pill for this brave feat.

He tried to hide the pill but of course his wife managed to find it and swallowed it. Her husband found out and tried to give chase but she flew out the window and reached the moon where her husband could not catch her. It is there she lives to this very day. On the night of the festival Chinese families celebrate with Hou Yi and his wife when he pays his annual visit to her on the moon.

moon cake
moon cake

Celebrate With Moon Cakes

Special sweet delicacy

It is very much a family celebration and a time for family reunion. The younger members of the family will travel back to their hometowns for this occasion with gifts of moon cakes.

At the top of the list of festive foods would be the moon cake with its many varied fillings to tease the appetite. Though it is quite a sweet pastry everyone will be sure to have a small piece. After all it is tradition!

The night would not be complete without sitting outside to admire the full moon and to catch up on all the family news. The children will have fun with their brightly lit lanterns.

How Moon Cakes Came About

Hiding secret messages in the moon cakes

During the fourteenth century, China was ruled by Mongolians from the north. The Mongolian rulers were oppressive and the people hated them. They were keen to overthrow their foreign rulers.

An uprising was planned by the rebels to coincide with Mid Autumn. What better way to inform everyone of the planned event than to hide the messages in the sweet filling of the moon cakes. It could then be passed to everyone without being detected by the Mongolian authorities.

Types Of Moon Cakes

Traditional moon cakes are baked with different fillings, the most popular being lotus paste. New types of moon cakes are growing in popularity with different crusts and fillings.

Tasty Raspberry Ice Cream Mooncake

Raspberry Ice Cream Moon Cake
Raspberry Ice Cream Moon Cake | Source

Ice Cream Moon Cake from Inside Scoop

My son bought a box of ice cream mooncakes from Inside Scoop. They were delicious!. With soft snowy skin on the outside and ice cream inside. My favorite was the raspberry cheesecake.

The mooncakes come in a box of four flavours - Rapberry cheesecake, durian with chocolate yolk, Hojicha green tea and chocolate nutty. What a delightful change to the usual lotus paste!


Sweet Fillings

There are many varieties of mooncakes available with more and more new creations each year. It is usually round or square pastries about 10 cm in diameter and 4-5 cm in thickness though miniature ones are also now available. Most consist of a thin crust with a sweet filling.

Other fillings include red bean paste, five kernel mixture of nuts and seeds like walnut, watermelon seeds, sesame seeds, peanuts and almonds with winter melon and small pieces of rock sugar.

My favorite is the ones with lotus seed and double egg yolk. The egg yolk is from duck eggs and the saltiness of the egg yolk blends perfectly with the sweet lotus paste.

Moon Cakes in A Basket

Moon cake biscuits without any filling a popular item with kids
Moon cake biscuits without any filling a popular item with kids

Snow Skin Moon Cake Is A Contemporary Creation

Chilled and not baked

I like the "snow skin" moon cake which is different from the traditional moon cake. It is not as oily as the traditional ones and many enjoy the new variety with its more colorful presentation.

It was first introduced in the early 1980s and is now a regular feature in many shops selling this sweet pastry. It is not baked and looks more like the mochi. The crust is often light and pastel in color and must be kept chilled all the time.

Snow Skin Moon Cake - Multi-colored with a variety of fillings

Moonlight drowns out all but the brightest stars

Festival Based On Chinese Lunar Calendar

This festival is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the lunar calendar. The moon is at its fullest and brightest on this night as it is completely illuminated as seen from earth.

Chinese festivals are set according to the different phases of the moon. For example, the Chinese New Year date is calculated according to when the new moon is set to appear. The Chinese consider the first and the fifteenth of each month important occasions and will make food offerings to their ancestors.

Moon Cake festival is no exception and households who believe in ancestral worship will have special steamed rice cakes set on the altars of their gods.

Pomelo - Popular Festive Fruit

Pomelo | Source

Sweet and Juicy Pomelos

During these festivities there are other food items as well.Other delicacies include the pomelo fruit which ripens around the time of the Mid Autumn festival. It is the largest citrus fruit and tastes a bit like the grapefruit but sweeter. The sweet pomelo is a refreshing taste to complement the moon cake.

Water Caltrop

Water caltrops
Water caltrops | Source

"Bull's Horn"

Another delicacy which only makes an appearance at this time is the water caltrop. This is a water chestnut and is the seed of an aquatic plant cultivated in India and China. In Chinese, it is called a "bull's horn" because of its resemblance to a bull's head.

The caltrops are boiled in water to cook it. The shell can be cracked with a nutcracker and the flesh eaten. Its texture is similar to that of the chestnut with a bland taste.

Baby Yams On Sale at The Market

Baby Taro

In Malaysia, baby taros or baby yams are another popular item, These are cooked in boiling water or steamed with their skins still intact. It doesn't take long to cook them, about 10-15 mins will do.

Once cooked the skin can be easily peeled off and the taros can be eaten just plain or some prefer to dip in sugar. Very nutritious too!

You can usually fin them in the local market. I always buy a few so that my family can taste this once a year food.

Beautiful Boxes of Moon Cakes


Gift Boxes

During this festive season it is customary to present moon cakes to family and business associates. Those who are going home for the festive holidays just need to visit the shopping malls where many promotional booths are set up for the sale of moon cakes.

Bakeries and also Chinese restaurants will often package them in attractive gift boxes. Each box would have four varieties with a choice of flavors. The boxes themselves are often works of art.


Moon Cakes From Kam Lun Tai

Choose your favorite filling and gift wrap in one of their beautiful boxes to give to family and business associates.

Tai Thong Moon Cakes

Tai Thong Moon Cake
Tai Thong Moon Cake

Multi coloured lanterns with children's favorite characters

Angry Bird Lanterns
Angry Bird Lanterns

Lanterns are one of the main features of the Moon Cake Festival.

Many neighborhoods arrange a celebration to bring neighbors together for this celebration. There are often lantern-making contests and the children will walk around with their lanterns brightly lit up.

Lanterns are often in the shape of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac, the most popular animal being the animal of the current year. Since kids have favorite cartoon characters, lantern makers are also quick to cater to the latest trend.

This is one time kids can enjoy playing with candles with the full approval of their parents. There are battery operated ones for parents who are concerned about safety Somehow a lantern lighted by a candle is still the preferred choice for many children, including mine when they were younger.

Traditional Paper Lanterns With Modern Characters

Lanterns Kids Will Love

Battery operated lanterns that young kids can enjoy
Battery operated lanterns that young kids can enjoy | Source

© 2011 Sue Mah


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