The Moon Festival - a 3000-year-old Chinese festival - is set to become the next big thing on Auckland's cultural calendar.
A three-day event, in a similar style to the popular Auckland Lantern Festival featuring Chinese lanterns, cultural performances, demonstrations and traditional Chinese art and craft will be held for the first time in Potters Park on Dominion Rd, Balmoral, when it kicks off next Friday.
SkyCity, which is having its first public celebration of the festival, is aiming to make history by baking New Zealand's largest mooncake. Celebrations are also being planned at Lloyd Elsmore Park in Pakuranga.
Massey University Chinese marketing expert Associate Professor Henry Chung said the Moon Festival, also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival in China, is the second most significant festival to the Chinese after Chinese New Year.
"It is timely and exciting to see the event being celebrated in such a public way for the first time, and is a major step forward," Chung said.
"It has come at the right time as the Auckland Chinese population is growing and an increasing number of international tourists coming."
The festival occurs on the 15th day of the eighth Chinese lunar month when the moon is at its roundest and brightest, which this year falls on Friday, September 13.
It can be traced back to the custom of moon worship during the Zhou Dynasty over 3000 years ago and gained popularity during the Tang Dynasty (618-907).
Chung said traditional customs include families coming together for reunion, thanksgiving and to eat moon cakes, which come in various flavours.
The tradition of eating mooncakes dates back to the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368) under the Mongols. Messages to rebel against the Mongols were passed around in mooncakes.
SkyCity event co-ordinator Coco Cui said its pastry chefs planned to bake a record-breaking giant mooncake, which will be unveiled on the day of the festival.
"The cake will follow tradition, using red bean paste and salted egg yolks, and at 1.5m in diameter, will be the biggest mooncake in New Zealand history," Cui said.
The mooncake will be displayed at the SkyCity atrium from 10am on Friday, September 13, followed by a cutting ceremony at noon where slices of the cake will be shared with the public.
Cui said sharing the mooncake would signify the sharing of "blessings, happiness and wholeness" that it represents.
Dominion Rd Moon Festival co-ordinator Cheng Goh said the event aims to give the city a more festive feel to this Chinese celebration.
"Unlike Chinese New Year, the Moon Festival has been so far taking place under the radar in Auckland," Goh said.
"So the idea is to give it a more festive feel, much like the Lantern Festival, where people of all cultures come together, eat, have fun and celebrate."
The inaugural festival is the result of a collaboration between the Balmoral Chinese Business Association, Dominion Rd Business Association and Auckland Council.
It will be officially opened with a lion dance, and highlights include performances by popular violinist Hannah Fang, Signals Pipes and Drums and the Beijing Opera Society.
Mooncakes, kimchi and dumplings will feature at the Mt Eden War Memorial Hall, where demonstrations and workshops will be held throughout the event.
Celebrations at Lloyd Elsmore Park on Saturday September 14, which runs from 4 to 9pm, will feature Chinese folk music and traditional dances, multicultural performances and an outdoor "full moon event".