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Mid-Autumn Festival – what this means for international students


The Mid-Autumn Festival is a harvest festival, celebrated in China for over 3,000 years.  Traditionally, families would spend time together, and pray for specific requests.  It is the 2nd most important festival, with Chinese New Year being the first.  It is celebrated throughout most East Asian countries, with different traditions. 


As the dates of the festival follow the lunar calendar, the dates change each year.

In mainland China there is an 3-day national holiday.  In Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Vietnam, the public holiday is just for one day.  Other countries have different public holidays.

Other names and why

The moon is usually at it’s biggest and brightest on this day, and the purpose of the festival is to thank the moon god for a good harvest.  It is traditional for families to go outside and admire the moon during this festival, and think about one’s family during this time.

  • A common food is the ‘moon cake’, hence another name for the festival: ‘Moon cake festival‘.  These can range from cheap, to very expensive (more than a new iPhone!), and there are many different flavours now.
  • It’s also known as the ‘Lantern Festival‘, as you can expect to see a huge array of traditional and modern lanterns hanging in streets, homes, and flying in the air throughout China during this festival.

Traditional foods and festivities

As well as eating moon cakes, making lanterns, admiring the moon and spending time with family…

In Hong Kong, a delicacy during this festival is the ‘hairy crab’, and it is customary to watch traditional lion dances.

It is customary for ‘red packets’ or ‘red envelopes’ to be given to one another which include money. This is instead of a gift.

Here are some famous fables surrounding the festival

How to celebrate with international students

Here are a few easy ways to celebrate with your student during this special time of year:

  • Wish them ‘Happy Mid-Autumn Festival’.  Asking the student how they say this in their language is a great talking point.  Or if you’re wanting to surprise them, learn how to say it in their language:
  • Make easy Chinese lanterns together
  • Visit a local China town and enjoy the festive atmosphere. There may even be a lion dance!
  • Simply sitting down and sharing a meal and time together will make students feel at home

As guardian it’s our job to help students integrate and feel confident in their surroundings. Making international students feel at home during their studies abroad is crucial for their well-being and study success.  Our homestays and partner schools are crucial in providing a ‘home away from home’, and we are here to help advise on cultural nuances.

If you’re a Study Links homestay or partner school and want more ideas about how to help international students celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival, contact us today.

Interested in being a homestay? Request a call.