Thursday, 15 September 2016

Mid-Autumn Festival 2016 中秋节

The Mid-Autumn Festival, also called 'Mooncake Festival', is a one thousand year-old Chinese tradition that dates back to a time when farmers thanked the Moon Goddess for an abundant harvest. One of the two most meaningful festivals in the Chinese calendar, together with Chinese New Year, the Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated among all Chinese communities around the world. It is held each year on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar, when the moon appears at its fullest and brightest. In Singapore, this festival is especially important as the local Chinese community forms 74% of the population.

If you plan your visit to Singapore around this date (Thursday 15th September 2016) or somewhere between the 20th of August to the 8th of September, you’ll find yourself marvelling at a plethora of glitzy lanterns in hotels and shopping malls. Without a doubt, you will also be offered a taste of these famous mooncakes that everyone raves about. Why don't you give it a try and bask in the festive mood? Learn about the legend of Chang’E that goes with the Mid-Autumn Festival and discover how this tradition is celebrated in Singapore. Then join the festivities in Chinatown at night, when its winding streets are enlivened by colourful garlands of lanterns, hustling stalls and eclectic entertainment.

Mooncake Mania and Palatable Pomelos - Once the festival is in full swing, a serious mooncake mania overwhelms the whole of Singapore. Shared among families and friends, mooncakes are also the perfect gift for valued customers and business partners. The best places to taste a host of traditional and new-found flavours are Singapore's shopping malls. Here, they set up (this year until the 18th of September) a row of mooncake tasting booths from the best mooncake makers around the country. Sample and savour some of the beautifully crafted mooncakes on display.

The traditional version of the mooncake is a round shaped pastry dough, densely filled with lotus or red bean paste and a duck egg yolk in the center. More modern creations include snow skin mooncakes, which have a soft and chewy texture and other mooncakes that can be flavoured with almost everything from black sesame to pandan, chocolate to expresso, durian fruit to ice cream. Beware, however, mooncakes can be very addictive and are not always compatible with a healthy diet! Hence, pace yourself while eating and do like locals: drink some hot tea to cut through the density.

Another festive goody that you should try during the Mid-Autumn Festival is the pomelo fruit. Usually imported from Malaysia, this tasty morsel becomes ripe during the festive season. Placed on the altar as a prayer offering, its round shape also signifies family unity while its Mandarin name is associated with abundance and wealth. Either way, the pomelo is also a symbol of prosperity and good fortune.

During this festival and after a long day at work, unwind with an evening walk across Chinatown. Follow the flow of the crowd, indulging in some shopping finds at the Night Market or join a free Mid-Autumn Walking Trail to discover the richness of this vibrant precinct. And, if you’ve got the munchies, there are plenty of casual eateries where you’ll find all Singapore local favourites.

Visiting Chinatown during the Mid-Autumn Festival has become a tradition for many Singaporeans. With its strong ethnic heritage and vibrant ambiance, Chinatown is the best place to experience the colourful street decorations and festive street bazaars. The nightly stage show held at Kreta Ayer Square, near the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, is also the opportunity to mingle with locals enjoying Chinese cultural performances, folk songs, music and dance acts by local entertainers and troupes from China.

Yet, the climax of the Mid Autumn Festival is definitely the Mass Lantern Walk. Each year, this is a fabulous display of giant lanterns that is set up at the open field in front of Banda Street. All locals and tourists are invited to join the one-kilometer procession bringing their own lanterns and also get the chance to worship Chang’E under the moonlight. Although the actual purpose of carrying brightly lit lanterns is not well established, in Singapore lanterns are widely used as a decorative element or children's toy. Today, however, it has become a vibrant symbol of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Following the lead of the procession, Chinatown is turned into a wonderful carnival of lanterns with dragon dances, cheerleading acts and percussion bands joining the parade. Closing with a few more dazzling stage performances and a spectacular display of fireworks, the Mass Lantern Walk finishes on a jubilant high.

Occupying the Marina Bay area on the same weekend, however, there’s another highlight of the Mid-Autumn Festival that has been delighting for years - the amateurs of performing arts. Since 2005, the Esplanade theatres on the Bay have presented the Moonfest Festival, a rousing roundup of Chinese performances, workshops and discussions about Chinese culture. This year, the audience will be presented with stately Chinese art forms such as the Wu opera, Teochew opera and the Guzheng instrument. Whether through ticketed or free performances, this is an engaging way for visitors to enjoy Chinese dance, music and other fun-filled activities such as martial arts, woodblock painting, Chinese chess and storytelling.

With all this entertainment embracing Chinese culture, whether in Chinatown or Marina Bay, you’ll definitely cherish your stay in Singapore during the Mid-Autumn Festival. So, join in the fun armed with your lantern and cheerfulness in hand and, for further moon-gazing opportunity, why not end your evening at one of our preferred rooftop bars?

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