Date: fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month. 19 Sep 2013; 8 Sep 2014; 27 Sep 2015.
Level of participation: 2 - gaze at the woman in the moon
Also called the Moon Cake Festival, China’s harvest festival is an occasion to scoff these sweet treats. The cakes, made of a thin dough shell containing fillings such as jelly, dates and nuts or red bean paste, start appearing everywhere a month before the celebration. If they’re not sick of the snacks by the time of the event, celebrants eat them within view of the real star of the festival: the moon. Held on the September full moon, during the autumn equinox, the tradition is about observing the transition of the seasons. In Japan, one of the other Asian countries where faces turn to the night sky, people even climb onto rooftops to get closer to the moon.
This is China’s most important shindig after its New Year celebrations, so it’s not all stargazing. Participants eat pomeloes (Chinese grapefruit) and drape the rinds on their heads, do fire-dragon dances, carry lanterns and hang them from towers. Incense is burnt for the lunar goddess Chang’e, who, they believe, lives on the moon with a jade rabbit. Sometimes called the Lantern Festival, the night should not be confused with the lantern festival at the end of Chinese New Year.
Essentials: pack a hamper of moon cakes and plenty of paper lanterns.
Local attractions: a popular moon-watching spot is the city of Hangzhou, where three candlelit towers stand in West Lake.
See other top festivals in September here.