When is it?
The Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. That means that the calendar date changes each year.
In 2019, the date falls on September 13, so the festival is celebrated from Friday, September 13 through Sunday, September 15.
What is it?
The Mid-Autumn Festival is the second largest festival in China (second only to Chinese New Year.) It is celebrated in mid-autumn (hence the name.)
The Mid-Autumn Festival may also be called The Moon Festival or the Harvest Moon Festival (since the moon is at its fullest and brightest during this time of the year.)
The festival was historically focused on moon-based sacrificial ceremonies. It was a time to give thanks for plentiful harvests. There were also several legends associated with the festival.
- Chang E flies to the moon: One of the most popular stories is centered around an archer (Hou Yi) who somehow inherited a special, sacred elixer. (The stories behind this vary.) His wife Chang E ended up drinking the elixer and flying to the moon!
- The Jade Rabbit pounds herbs: It is said that the Jade Rabbit (jack rabbit) is Chang E’s companion on the moon. He continually pounds herbs to make pills in an attempt to find a combination that will send Chang E back to Earth so she can be reunited with her husband.
- Woodsman Wu Gang chops the laurel tree: This is a legend where a woodsman attempts to chop down a self-healing laurel tree each day at the Moon Palace. The tree heals itself each evening, and he resumes his efforts the next day.
- Zhu Yuanzhang’s mooncake uprising: Zhu Yuanzhang is the founder of the Ming Dynasty. He attempted to launch an uprising on the night of the Mid-Autumn festival, but communications proved to be challenging. They ended up hiding notes in mooncakes to distribute them, leading to Zhu and his rebel forces taking the capital of the Yuan Dynasty (now Beijing) and beginning the Ming Dynasty.
Today, the festival is still celebrated by eating mooncakes. They are often given as gifts to wish someone a long and happy life. Families take time to appreciate the moon, honor family members who live far away, and sometimes celebrate with lanterns or dragon and lion dances, depending on their regions. People typically get one day off of work to celebrate, making the festival a long weekend in many regions.
Will I get bookings or cancellations?
I started with VIPKid last year around the time of the Mid-Autumn festival, so I do not have personal experience with bookings during this festival. In perusing the Facebook groups, it sounds as though it all depends on the students and their families. Some take the time off of classes, while others use the extra day off to book extra classes. Just be aware and try to be mindful of student schedule changes. As with most holidays, it’s best if you can open up short notice bookings and be as flexible as possible!
What can I do in class to celebrate?
Any time you can bring elements of a festival into your classroom, children and their families will appreciate your efforts! There are a few traditions that are easy to incorporate:
- Mooncakes. Depending on your supermarket, you may be able to find actual mooncakes that you can eat “with” your students. If not, there are lots of mooncake rewards (digital or printable.) These can be fun to use around the time of the Mid-Autumn Festival. You can also use it for free talk, and ask your students if they made or ate Mooncakes! VIPKid even provides a mooncake reward system here!
- Tradition. Especially if you teach older, higher-level children, this could be a good opportunity to compare traditions. Ask them to tell you If they grew up listening to the legends. Have them tell you their favorite one! You can share stories about “harvest festivals” in your country and foods that we eat. Holidays are always a good opportunity to share culture!
- Decoration. If you enjoy decorating your classroom, there are some lovely images available for the Mid-Autumn Festival. The image on this blog post is from PNG Tree, but there are many beautiful images available.
What should I do to prepare?
There’s really not too much you need to do to prepare, unless you want to incorporate decorations or rewards into your classroom. Be flexible, and be open to hearing if your students want to tell you about their own celebrations on this day. Most importantly, have fun!
If you are a current VIPKid teacher, keep your eyes open, because sometimes they will offer workshops about specific festivals. There are several Chinese culture workshops scheduled during September, so those might be a good place to start.
If you have suggestions of your own, please let me know in the comments, or let me know how this festival has been for you in the past!
If you are just getting started and would like help through the hiring process, please feel free to reach out. I’d love to help you through the application process with VIPKid!