Basel’s Mid-Autumn Festival
Basel has been celebrating the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival since 2010. Every year, the popular festival on Münsterplatz presents fascinating aspects of the Chinese culture and provides an opportunity for encounters between Basel’s population and its local Chinese community. The around 6,000 visitors which flock to the festival on a (mostly) beautiful autumn day can experience the rich traditions of the Middle Kingdom hands-on, including Tai Ji, Chinese musical instruments, calligraphy, magic, dance and acrobatics. On top of this, visitors can sample a range of culinary delights from China which few Chinese restaurants in Switzerland have on offer. Thanks to Basel’s city partnership with Shanghai, the Mid-Autumn festival frequently attracts artists from the Chinese metropolis.
The mid-autumn festival, which takes place on the 15th day of the 8th month of the moon calendar, hence at the end of September or the beginning of October, is the most important Chinese family celebration after the new year festival. The full moon is a symbol for the family gathering. On the day, sweet or savoury traditional moon cakes are given as gifts and eaten together. Basel’s Mid-Autumn Festival offers a range of exciting activities for children and families, among them a circus workshop, lantern folding and competitions for children. The big highlight for the young ones is the dragon dance at the end of the festival when everyone chases the dragon across Münsterplatz.
The mid-autumn festival goes back to an old legend: The heavenly empress gave the hero Hou Yi an elixir of immortality. Since Hou Yi preferred to remain on earth with his wife Chang’e, he gave her the elixir for safekeeping. While Chang’e hid the bottle, she was observed by her husband’s rival. Before he could steal the elixir, Chang’e grabbed the bottle and swallowed the contents. She floated off into the sky and has lived on the moon ever since. Every autumn, people pay homage to the moon goddess Chang’e.