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Mid-Autumn Festival 2012: How was it for you?

Lights, lanterns and … a massive yellow hedgehog thing

Golden Moon in Victoria Park, Hong Kong, for mid-autumn festival 2012

So the best festival of the year (sorry Chinese New Year) has now been and gone. All those lanterns; all those lights. Tai Hang turned into a smoky vision of hell as the Fire Dragon wound around its streets. Victoria Park turned into a spectacle of burning candles, glowing ninjas, and … a massive yellow hedgehog thing. It was a rowdy, colourful and potentially flammable joy to behold.

Like most Chinese Festivals, mid-autumn festival is a time for the two “fs”, family and food. Taking place on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month in September or October, it is believed that this is the night of all nights when the moon appears biggest, roundest and brightest in the sky. It was originally a celebration of the year’s harvest and of the beauty of the full moon and has since become a time when families across China can reunite, eat mooncake till they’re sick and indulge in a little pyromania across three glorious moonlit nights.

A giant lantern in the shape of a ninja for the mid-autumn festival, Victoria Park, Hong Kong

A Chinese girl standing next to a lantern figure in Victoria Park, Hong Kong

Here in Hong Kong, mid-autumn festival means, well, pretty much the same. On the night before mid-autumn proper people hit the streets with their lanterns to welcome the moon. Traditional paper lanterns mix with flashing Angry Birds on sticks. Parks become rather more colourful than usual. Kids are allowed to stay up late playing with their glow sticks and torches. The 14th night is also the first night of the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance, the three day extravaganza of incense, noise and raucousness that takes place on the narrow streets of Tai Hang in celebration of the of the village’s delivery from misfortune over 100 years ago.

The 15th night is the night of family dinners and appreciating the moon. After dinner, the parks and beaches fill with the light of lanterns and candles, with Victoria Park acting as the undoubted focal point. The lawns of the park begin filling soon after dark until the whole area becomes a glowing sea of neon and candlelight as families and couples enjoy the evening and the fiery spectacle of it all.

A family burning candles for mid-autumn festival in Victoria Park, Hong Kong

A couple burning candles in Victoria Park, Hong Kong

Victoria Park is also host to the annual mid-autumn festival lantern display. The centerpiece this year was an 18 metre-tall illuminated dome, supposed to be a Golden Moon but looking more like a giant yellow hedgehog. The design was the result of a competition organised by the Hong Kong Tourism Board and featured an “LED light and sound show” within. The golden colour of the dome is associated in Chinese culture with the colours of autumn and good fortune, while the Golden Moon itself, in its Chinese name, alludes, apparently, to joy. Whatever the symbolism, it all admittedly looked very impressive on the night.

But now it’s all over for another year. We welcomed the moon, we appreciated the moon (what a lovely moon), and by the time it came to chasing the moon, we could no longer even see the moon for the smoke from the National Day fireworks. Now all we’ve got is a fridge full of mooncake that no one will eat and … ah, the photographs. Enjoy!

A family burning candles for mid-autumn festival in Victoria Park, Hong Kong

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