Ever wondered how the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival (also known as Moon Cake Festival or Zhong Qiu Jie) likes? I hope the following screen shots and photos, which were taken at a celebration event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia will give you some ideas and the feel of what it is!
In countries like Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore, the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival is also referred to as the Lantern Festival. Whatever name it goes by, I would say that the centuries-old festival remains a beloved annual ritual for Chinese celebrating an abundance of food and family reunion. You may want to know that it is considered as one of the most important traditional festivals for all Chinese people in the world. You will notice that every year on this day, Chinese people will gather together with family members and friends, eating moon cakes and enjoy the full round moon.
Full round moon? Chinese believe that on that day, the moon is at its roundest and brightest which signal a time of richness, completeness and abundance and of course there are ancient legends closely associated with it. It is quite a sight to see at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay and in Hong Kong, any open space or mountain top is crowded with people trying to get a glimpse of this auspicious full round moon. Perhaps we can also say that this is much like a Western ‘Thanksgiving’.
If you were to ask me when was the custom of this celebration begins, honestly, I am not very sure, but from what I heard its origin can be traced back to the 14th century.
Moon Cake Festival or Zhong Qiu Jie to what I know is usually celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month of the Chinese lunar calendar while the date in Western calendar changes yearly. Similar festivals with their own unique traditions can be observed in Korea during the three-day Chusok or Chu Suk; in Vietnam during Tet Trung Thur and in Japan at the Tsukimi festival.
Who you think will be the happiest ones during this Mid-Autumn Festival? Lovers or children? You may want to know this is the time that children are most excited and delighted to stay up past midnight, parading with some multi-colored lanterns to the streets. Frankly this is also a romantic night for lovers, who will likely be seen holding hands on hilltops and riverbanks. Who won’t enjoy this moment since the moon is at its brightest and roundest?
This is a lantern or in popular Chinese Cantonese dialect call ‘Tang Long’, usually a paper or a red plastic wrap in traditional shapes like star-shaped fruits, rabbits, goldfish, crap, lobsters, butterflies and many others. Usually those round fan folded lantern are the most basic form.
I believe you are a bit curious on why all these shapes? In fact, each shape carries its meaning, for example butterfly symbolizes longevity while crap is a symbol of the Emperor that stands for power, courage and wisdom. Sound interesting right?
Candles are used to light up the lanterns traditionally but with the progress of society and for safety reason, we will not be surprised to find battery powered lantern with cartoon characters like Batman, Ultraman, Hello Kitty and Spiderman though. With a little bit of creativity, a lantern may not look like a lantern, just look at the photos below, can you differentiate which is lantern and which is not?
Well, a Mid-Autumn festival or Zhong Qiu Jie if without a moon cake is truly missing something or sounds a bit unusual. What is moon cake then? It is actually a round pastry filled with lotus seed paste with one to two egg yolks of about 160 grams each. You will find that the more egg yolks in a moon cake, the more expensive it is and of course more prestigious when we present them as presents to others. You can buy moon cake in one piece or in two pieces separately or in a box of 4 pieces.
I seldom buy moon cake nowadays as it is expensive to me, but if you are coming from a country where your currency is stronger than the producer countries, say Malaysia and most Asia countries in this case, then I would say it is usually less expensive since your currency is definitely stronger than those countries where moon cakes were made. No wonder people from overseas do buy moon cakes through friends from other countries. Well, instead of buying, I am thinking to make one myself for eating and for selling too!
It is good to note that modern moon cakes are a lot more diverse in shape, in ingredient and in its packaging. For example, you will be able to find jelly moon cake, durian moon cake, strawberry moon cake, in fact dozens variations of moon cake with different kinds of ingredients such as green tea, ice cream, red bean paste, fruit, coffee flavor and many more than we could imagine and in different packaging too, like the one shown here is four pieces in a box and with different flavor though. Don’t worry about gain weight, as there are mini-moon cakes to cater to those who would like to watch their weight but still want to be traditional on the Mid-Autumn festival!
Think this is a result of modernization and a good business to venture into! Well, what kind of moon cake shall I do and sell? Perhaps, an “A Scored Student moon cake”, or a “Becoming Richer moon cake”, may be a “Lover moon cake”, how about you then?