Traditional Chinese Mooncakes and Mid-Autumn Festival Guide

On Tuesday, September 21st 2021 people all over China will be celebrating Mid-Autumn Festival!

What does it mean?

For us in the West, it is another day, for Chinese and some neighboring countries, it is a very important tradition which carries a strong connection to the full moon (that is why it is called the Moon Festival in honor of the moon). 

The Mid-Autumn Festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar. This year it falls on 21 September!

This Festival which is a national bank holiday in all provinces in China features the amazing idea of seeing the same moon phase on or around the same date. On this day, all family members gather together to pray and have dinner.

Afterwards, children carry lanterns and stroll in parks or gardens or release them into the sky.

People Setting Off Chinese Lantern During Mid Autumn Festival

China’s Mid-Autumn Festival

Mooncakes During Mid-Autumn Festival

Mid-Autumn Festival is also often called the Mooncake Festival for a traditional baked delicacy exchanged among family and friends.

Chinese Mooncake
5 small mooncakes wrapped in a bag

Mooncake Shape

Mooncakes typically have a round shape which symbolizes unity and completeness. They come with difference sizes from very tiny to very massive ones (from 10 to 20 cm in diameter and 4-6 cm thick).

Middle-sized mooncake and its round shape

During the Mid-Autumn Festival, the head of the family cuts the mooncakes into pieces and distributes them to each family member, signifying a family reunion.

Mooncakes are usually kept in traditional Chinese boxes so that they can look beautiful as a gift.

The box where mooncakes are kept
The box where mooncakes are kept
Mooncakes in the box

Mooncake Taste

Every mooncake has a very rich thick filling usually made from lotus seed paste and red bean. It has a thin crust and might contain salted duck eggs and yolks. The filling can be also made of sugar, jujube paste, ham, fruit or cream.

Tasting Chinese Mooncakes

They are usually eaten in small wedges accompanied by traditional Chinese tea.

Our Mooncake Experience

Each year we spent in China, we have been given about 20 different mooncakes from parents and teachers from our kindergarten, Chinese friends and neighbors. They would probably last till the next Mid-Autumn Festival.

A girl and a boy are eating Chinese mooncake
Enjoying our mooncakes

We both enjoy mooncakes a lot, but you can’t have too much of them as they are way too sweet and they make you feel sick if you eat too much of them at one go. They are very heavy for the cakes and its thick consistency makes you wanna drink a lot of water.

Each mooncake is approximately 1.000 kcal and a typical mooncake costs between RMB 10 ($1.60) and RMB 50 ($8) Abroad they cost around $30 per box, you can check the current prices here.

Frequently Asked Questions About Mooncakes and Mid-Autumn Festival

Why do we celebrate the Mid Autumn Festival?

We celebrate the Mid Autumn Festival to untie and spend time with family, get relaxed and pray together for peace and health in the upcoming year. It’s also the time to eat mooncakes and watch the moon.

What does the Mid Autumn Festival symbolize?

Mid-Autumn Festival symbolizes unity and harmony. These are also the symbols of the moon in Chinese culture.

How long is Mid Autumn Festival?

In China, Mid Autumn Festival typically lasts for 7 days, but in 2020 it will be celebrated for 8 days (Oct 1 to Oct 8).

Which countries celebrate Mid Autumn Festival?

Public National Holidays due to Mid Autumn Festival are typically held in China, Vietnam, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. However, a growing number of people, especially expats from East Asia, celebrate the festival all around the world.

How can I get a mooncake outside of East Asia?

Your friends may gift you a mooncake regardless of where you are, but you can also order some online or make your own using a mooncake making mould.

When should you eat mooncakes?

Traditionally, you should eat mooncakes you received with family in the evening, while looking at the moon. However, most people receive so many mooncakes, while they are so filling, that they eat long after the Mid Autumn Festival is over.

How long can mooncakes be kept?

Traditional mooncakes can be kept for up to 3 months (the baked ones). Other types, like “snowy” mooncakes, are best eaten within 2 weeks.

Should mooncakes be refrigerated?

While not mandatory, it’s best to keep mooncakes in the fridge, especially if you plan to eat them over the coming weeks. Baked mooncakes can last quite a long time in room temperature if they are sealed properly.

Are mooncakes sweet?

Short answer – YES. While there are many kinds of mooncakes to choose from, the majority are very sweet.

Are mooncakes healthy?

Mooncakes contain a lot of sugars and fat which doesn’t make them very healthy. Please enjoy mooncakes in moderation.


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Agness Walewinder
Agness Walewinder
Travel freak, vagabond, photography passionate, blogger, life enthusiast, backpacker, adventure hunter and endless energy couchsurfer living by the rule "Pack lite, travel far and live long!"
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50 thoughts on “Traditional Chinese Mooncakes and Mid-Autumn Festival Guide”

  1. WHOA 1000 calories in one mooncake?! That’s insane! I would give them all away, sounds like a dangerous thing to have in excess just laying around the house :-p

  2. I didn’t know you guys celebrate this in China too. From my Korean friends, I find out that they also celebrate something similar called Chuseok. Sounds very interesting! I wonder if Japan and Taiwan also celebrate this Mid-Autumn Festival.

    Agness, you and Cez look very healthy and happy! I can imagine you guys having lots of special foods :-) enjoy your holiday!

    1. Yes, we do, every year! It’s been my second Mid-Autumn Festival here. Yes, Taiwanese people celebrate it as well together with Vietnamese but I’m not sure about Japan and I don’t think so… Thanks Halida! Cez’s getting well and we are having a great time together :). You also enjoy your travels x

  3. I was not a fan of mooncakes. They’re way too sweet, heavy and rich for my taste. Plus the first one I bit into had an egg in it, which is not something I generally expect to find in my pastry. I tried a few different ones, but couldn’t finish any of them. Despite that, my students and the school I worked for kept giving me more and more of the damn things…. I ended up just giving them all to my neighbors, which made me very popular in my building for a few days.

    1. I know!! I tried the egg one as well and I didn’t like it that much, but other flavors are very delicious. I agree, they might be way too heavy and sweet for someone who does not have a sweet tooth :).

  4. They had a mooncake eating competition in Georgetown when I was there a few days ago – I sadly missed it, but I can imagine the hilarity. They were quite expensive to buy in Malaysia though so I never actually tried one! Though they’re selling them at 7-11 here in Thailand but mmm… not so sure about that ;)

    1. Oh I see. They are pretty cheap in China, especially when the Mid-Autumn Festival is over. You can get plenty of them for $2-$3 on sale. You definitely need o try one in the future, they ate very tasty.

  5. Mooncakes are a new one for me… never tried it before, but they do look intriguing. I have to agree with Christina though… 1000 calories!!?? Dangerous!

    1. It’s insane and you can imagine that some Chinese have 2 or 3 at one go :-), but they are very delicious and filling.

  6. They look very massive and delicious. Never tried them, but hope to make it to China one day and treat myself with a mooncake or two. Have fun!

  7. Sounds like an interesting festival (and a holiday). Lanterns must be nice. 1,000 calories is a lot. No wonder it’s eaten in wedges followed by tea :)

    1. Hahahaha, true!!! :) It’s a fun day and yes, I was extremely careful with eating them – 1.000 kcal in one!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. I love mooncakes and I had plenty of them last year when I was visiting China. They are so sweet and heavy indeed, but extremely yummy!

  9. I’m still not a big fan of the mooncakes with yolks in them, but I don’t like eggs in general.
    I do love all the more modern versions though, like red bean, custard and ice cream ;)

    Happy Mid-Autumn Festival guys!

    1. Do you have them in Japan at all? Ice cream rocks :P!!!! Same to you, enjoy Mid-Autumn Festival in Japan (if you celebrate it at all)!!! Xxx

  10. Must admit, they don’t look very tasty! They look very heavy – and like you say very sweet. Although the thought of eggs in them sounds weird – trust the chinese! 1,000 cal, wow, you wouldn’t want to eat too many!

  11. I’ve had a lot of moon cakes, mainly because my grandma gives them to our family on pretty much every Chinese festival. I’d have to admit I hate the egg ones, but the others are ok.

    1. Hi Jonathan,
      Thanks for stopping by. Egg mooncakes taste so weird, I need to admit that, but they are less sweet and that’s why I like them much more than others. Happy Mid-Autumn Festival for you and all of your family!

  12. We tried moon cake here in Thailand a few days ago and didn’t like it at all!
    We didn’t know what it was made of but saw it everywhere, so of course we had to go for it. Ashray tried it first and, as the taste was so pungent, he said something like “yuuuckk.. this is made of duriannn!!”. :P
    I googled it to understand that is made of red bean (not durian!) but I didn’t like it either. Maybe was the one we got that wasn’t particularly good… I might give it another try sometime!

    1. You didn’t like them? NO WAY! Hahhahaha it’s not made of durian but it smells and taste like one :) Try chocolate or ice cream one, they are really yummy! :)

  13. Hi Agness,

    It is great to see you write a feature about mooncakes. I’ve often heard about them and the festival yet I’ve never been in China at the time to experience it, hopefully one day. I heard that it is extremely rude to decline a gift of mooncake. It is much better to just accept the gift even if you have too many or don’t like them.

    1. Yes, it’s very rude to decline a gift of mooncake. No matter how full you feel, you have to eat another one if you get asked. Crazy, but it’s China. I used to have plenty of them at one go as I was too scared to refuse them :). Then I ended up with a massive stomachache and it was not that much fun at all.

      1. You must be very popular among your friends so that you received so many present of kindness!

  14. Pedro - Travel with Pedro

    Hey guys, that looks really yummy… I’d eat those 20 mooncakes in no time! Oh, again, it’s 1,000 calories we’re talking about… :-S

    1. You can get the most popular moon cake among Chinese international students in Asian supermarket about the end of this September to the beginning of October. That’s special, but can promise you like it. Even I myself don’t like moon cake when I was young. But I love it now!

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