See & Do

5 unique experiences you can’t miss out on during the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival

If you’re visiting a Southeast Asian country around this time of year, then you’re in for a treat – late September to early October is when the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival takes place, filled with fun activities and cultural performances.

Originating from China, the harvest festival is also known as the Mooncake Festival or the Lantern Festival, and was traditionally meant to offer thanks for a bounteous harvest and in celebration of the full moon.

Countries with a large Chinese population like Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam usually have lively celebrations.

Each country in the region has their own take on the celebrations, so here are some of the special activities you can only participate in during the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival:

Indulge your sweet tooth with mooncakes


For many, mooncakes are undoubtedly one of their favorite parts of the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival. You can easily find them at most major supermarkets and bakeries; they’re commonly given as a gift to family and friends.

The palm-sized delicacy has a crust that is either made of pastry or a mochi-like layer made of glutinous rice (known as “snow skin”). While the filling is often sweet, such as lotus seed paste or sweet bean paste, there are also savory varieties with meat, as well as a salted egg yolk center.

According to a Chinese legend, Han Chinese rebels used mooncakes to pass secret messages to one another in the final uprising against Mongol rulers, leading to the creation of the Ming Dynasty in 1368.

Learn how to paint a paper lantern

Lantern Painting
Child learning how to paint a Chinese lantern.

Lanterns are another significant part of the celebrations, coming in a variety of shapes and colors that draw inspiration from nature and local folklore.

In Vietnam, children will carry lanterns and wear masks as part of a night parade, with the lanterns signifying their hope for the sun’s light and warmth to return after winter.

Nowadays, many places organize workshops and booths open to the public, where you can learn how to decorate your own paper lantern, in addition to other handicrafts, such as painting Chinese umbrellas, learning how to make Chinese knots, or trying your hand at Chinese calligraphy.

Take a nighttime stroll among illuminated sculptures

Lantern Installation
Lantern Installation at Gardens by The Bay, Singapore. Source: Sam’s Studio /

Shopping malls, parks, and temples will often get into the spirit of the festival by being decked out in beautiful decorations and art installations that turn into dazzling light displays once the sun goes down.

Our top picks for the best light displays include Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall and Gardens By The Bay in Singapore, as well as Thean Hou Temple in Kuala Lumpur.

Enjoy a traditional Chinese performance

Chinese Opera
A special traditional Chinese opera performance in conjunction with the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival. Source: gnohz /

Traditional Chinese performances are usually held during the festival, from classic Chinese operas to modern dance and music performances.

Some performances are even free of charge, like the nightly cultural performances at the Supertree Grove in Singapore’s Gardens By The Bay, so do keep an eye out!

Watch a colorful parade

Lion Dance
A lion dance performance in Hanoi, Vietnam. Source: Vietnam Stock Images /

Watch lion and dragon dance troupes strut their stuff to the beat of drums during a Mid-Autumn Festival parade.

You’ll also get to see parade participants wearing traditional costumes and carrying lanterns as they walk alongside brightly-decorated parade floats.

Now’s the perfect time to experience the best of the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, so be sure to check out to book flights and hotels across Southeast Asia!

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