Celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival in London Chinatown
The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival and the Chinese Lantern Festival, is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese lunar calendar. This usually occurs around late September or early October when the moon is supposedly at its fullest and roundest.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is the most important festival in the Chinese calendar, apart from the Chinese New Year and Winter Solstice (also known as Dongzhi Festival), and is a national holiday in some countries.
Traditionally, during the Mid-Autumn Festival, farmers celebrate the end of the summer harvesting season on this date. Chinese family members and friends gather to admire the bright mid-autumn harvest moon, and enjoy moon cakes and pomelos together.
Overthrow of Mongolian rule
According to Chinese folklore, the Moon Festival commemorates an uprising in China against the Mongolian rulers of the Yuan Dynasty (1280-1368) in the 14th century. Group gatherings were forbidden by the Mongolian rulers and it was impossible to orchestrate a rebellion.
As the Mongolians did not partake in the eating of moon cakes, the rebel leaders came up with the idea of timing the rebellion to coincide with the Moon Festival. They distributed thousands of moon cakes to the Chinese residents in the city and cleverly inserted inside each moon cake a piece of paper with the message: “Kill the Mongolians on the 15th day of the 8th month.”
On the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival, the rebels successfully attacked and overthrew the Mongolian government. Following the overthrow of the Mongolian government was the establishment of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). As a result of the successful rebellion, the Mid-Autumn Festival was celebrated with moon cakes on a national level.
Mid-Autumn Festival in London
Gerrard Street was the main focal point of the Moon Festival in London and Chinatown was lit up by thousands of orange paper lanterns to mark the occasion. Thousands of local Chinese and visitors from all over the world were there to participate in the anxiously awaited annual event. Many children were wearing the traditional bright coloured Chinese costumes and they look pretty in them.
This event was organised by the London Chinatown Chinese Association and was held on Sunday, 11th October, a week later than usual, to coincide with the London Restaurant Festival (8th – 13th October 2009).
An outdoor stage was setup on Macclesfield Street, facing Gerrard Street. The opening ceremony started at 1.00pm with the ever-popular lion dance.
The afternoon’s performances were a mixture of traditional and modern entertainment including a lion dance, martial arts, Chinese traditional music, hip-hop dance and Hong Kong Canto-Pop.
Gifts were distributed to those who participated in quizzes or were brave enough to go on stage to give a performance. There were also food tasting, candy and noodle-making classes and even a Chopsticks Challenge.
28 Chinatown restaurants participated in the London Restaurant Festival and offered mouth-watering special menus of Oriental cuisines at special prices.
Elsewhere Chinese community stores were set up to sell Chinese products and those selling paper lanterns and fans seemed to have done very well on the day.
And so did the lion who danced from one shop to another offering good fortune to the Chinese business community.
The Mid-Autumn Festival in London was clearly enjoyed by everyone. There was so much fun and laughter and even the drizzle near the end did not dampen the spirits of those who participated in this year’s event.