Chuseok, Tsukimi, Tet Trung Thu: every year, Asian countries and communities celebrate the harvest, the changing of the seasons and the full moon. In the northern hemisphere the festival falls during autumn (in China it’s called the Mid-Autumn Festival, and also the Lantern or Mooncake Festival), but in Australia it falls during spring – right now, in fact.
Inner-city dining precinct Darling Square is home to dozens of restaurants and retailers representing a diverse range of countries and cuisines, and it’s bringing Mid-Autumn to Haymarket with its very own Moon Festival, which starts tonight.
“The Moon Festival is a beautiful celebration that’s particularly magical for children across most of Asia, and we wanted to create something beautiful that was hopeful and healing as we all recover from Covid,” festival organiser Marina Zarnitsyna tells Broadsheet.
More than 400 lanterns in shades of pink, turquoise, yellow and orange have been strung up along Darling Square’s covered walkways and in trees leading to the distinctive wood-wrapped Exchange Building. They’re lit up every evening from 5pm until midnight for the duration of the festival, and you can buy one to take home, with proceeds supporting The Haymarket Foundation, which helps locals in need.
“The symbolism of having your own lantern is to send your wishes to the world … We wanted to create a magical atmosphere that puts the focus into the present moment and celebrates the most important things in life like family, friends, connection and love,” says Zarnitsyna.
Lots of eateries have special deals and dishes lined up: Golden Century sister venue XOPP is doing yum-cha classics and limited-edition mooncakes; Iiko Mazesoba will be serving tsukimi dango (“moon-viewing rice dumplings”); Hello Auntie has $10 dessert banh mis with custard and fish-sauce caramel; there’ll be free karaage with a tap-beer order at Nakano Darling; and complimentary spring rolls from Chinta Ria Buddha Love when you spend more than $30.