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A Short Guide to China’s Delicious Mid-Autumn Festival

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The Beijing Olympic Games are in the rear-view mirror, but the festivities did leave the world with one salient takeaway: China, as a country, is stepping into the second decade of the 21st Century ready to embrace world travellers. 

It wasn’t always that way. For much of the last 70 years, China has maintained a love-hate relationship with foreign travel – actively encouraging it at times while enforcing strict entry rules at others. It’s a good thing the world’s most populous country is in a welcoming mood these days, because they have a major holiday coming up: the Mid-Autumn Festival

This year, the festival kicks off on September 10th, giving curious travellers plenty of time to plan. In this article, let’s explore what you should know about the festival, including what to pack, where to enjoy festivities, and, of course, what to eat. 

What to Pack 

September in China remains unseasonably hot in some areas, while in other areas, the north especially, temperatures drop like a day-old floating lantern. 

In short, you want to pack clothing that’s ready to take on a variety of climates, especially if you plan on intra-national travel. The best clothing for unpredictable fall weather is usually merino wool, since the material is breathable yet insulating. Merino’s also quick-drying, which is a plus since much of the country experiences moderate rain in the fall. To be safe, pack a base layer of merino wool, including a couple of sleek Unbound Merino t shirts, a few pairs of underwear and socks. 

Aside from a merino base layer, consider packing outer layer items that you can easily remove if the temperature is too warm: a zip-up hoodie, a fleece jacket and a rain shell. 

Where to Go and What to Eat

Honestly, wherever you visit in China will be a blast during the Mid-Autumn Festival (except for Western provinces like Xinjiang, whose citizens don’t tend to observe the holiday). Still, to help guide you, here are four great choices for destinations: 

  • Beijing: The epicenter of Chinese culture and heritage is never a bad place to celebrate national holidays. Expect plenty of fireworks and in-the-street merrymaking! 
  • Fenghuang: This ancient city in Hunan is a sight to behold any time of year, but it puts on a real spectacle for the September festival. 
  • Qingdao: This seaside city was once occupied by the Germans, meaning it has a firmly entrenched beer culture. If you like to raise a glass while you celebrate, here’s the place to do it. 
  • Macau: The high-roller capital of the world offers several distinctive culinary experiences for the Mid-Autumn Festival. 

Wherever you end up, chances are you’ll find mooncakes. These traditional filled delicacies are ubiquitous at Mid-Autumn festivals around the country, available in sweet, bean-filled iterations or savory meat-filled versions. You can also expect to find plenty of fruit passed around, like pomelos, oranges, pomegranates and grapes. 

In the south, especially around Guangdong and Hong Kong, crab is popular – simply stir-fried with ginger and scallions. In the north, you’ll commonly find braises like red-cooked pork belly. And wherever you are, the drink of choice during the Mid-Autumn Festival is cassia wine – a sweet, mildly alcoholic elixir made from Osmanthus flowers. 

You’ve still got a few months to plan a trip. Use this short guide to help you pack, pick destinations, and prepare yourself for what to eat.