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Mid-Autumn Festival, Moon Festival, Mooncake Festival

The Mid-Autumn Festival is also called the Moon Festival or the Mooncake Festival. It traditionally falls on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese lunar calendar, which is in September or early October in the Gregorian calendar. This is the night when the moon is at its fullest and brightest.

In 2020, the Mid-Autumn Festival or Mooncake Festival falls on 1st October 2020.

History of the Mid-Autumn Festival

“May we live long and share the beauty of the moon together, even if we are hundreds of miles apart.”

This line from a famous Song dynasty poem written by Su Shi, better known as Su Dongpo, perhaps best captures the spirit of Mid-Autumn Festival, an age-old event with roots in Chinese culture.

The festival probably originated as the worship of the moon among ancient peoples. As the nation grew in size and sophistication, the various traditions of lunar veneration amalgamated into a celebration of the full moon in autumn.

Before the Qin dynasty (221-206BC), it was already a significant date for the Chinese, who “welcomed the cold season on the night of the Mid-Autumn” and presented the king with fine fur garments. In the six centuries of the Han and Jin periods (206BC-AD420), there were sporadic records of mid-autumn celebrations but the festival wasn’t very popular, especially in northern China.

The story of Chang’e, the Chinese goddess of the moon, is one of many linked to Mid-Autumn Festival. Picture: Getty Images
The story of Chang’e, the Chinese goddess of the moon, is one of many linked to Mid-Autumn Festival. Picture: Getty Images and SCMP

It was during the Tang dynasty (AD618-907) that Mid-Autumn Festival became a nationwide holiday. Folk tales associated with the festival and the moon – such as Chang’e’s lunar flight, Wu Gang’s Sisyphean task of felling the osmanthus tree, and the Jade Rabbit pounding medicinal herbs to make the elixir of life – were popularised, and parties under the full moon became fashionable in the capital Changan (present-day Xian). Scores of poems were written eulogising the moon at mid-autumn.

During the Northern Song dynasty (AD960-1127), the annual festival was officially set on the 15th day of the eighth month on the Chinese calendar, a date that is still observed. According to a detailed description of daily life in the capital Kaifeng, “On Mid-Autumn’s night, noble families decorated their pavilions and commoners vied with one another to occupy the drinking houses to enjoy the moon.” They “nibbled on small pastries that resembled the moon”, with fillings that were savoury and sweet. The festivities would go on until dawn.

Mooncake Today Symbolizes Family Reunion

In Chinese culture, roundness symbolizes completeness and togetherness. A full moon symbolizes prosperity and reunion for the whole family. Children can be seen carrying colorful lanterns and walking around the neighborhoods.

It brings back memories of my cousins and I hanging lanterns in the garden.

Candle in the lantern

Eventually, we got bored of lanterns and played with candles. We’ll create dominoes, lines, and patterns of candles. It felt like lighting a birthday cake but without the cake.

The best was the bonfire. We’ll create our mini campfire and watch the candles burn. No stories, just silence around the burning candles.

Round mooncakes complement the harvest moon in the night sky at the Mid-Autumn Festival. The mooncake is not just a food.

The Mooncake Festival has become very commercialized. Shops tout mooncakes of every conceivable flavor, type, and packaging.

In addition to the traditional mooncakes, there are snow-skin mooncakes, jelly mooncakes, and ice cream mooncakes.

Mini Fisky Dragon Fruit Mooncake, Mini Shanghai York Dragon, Mini Fisky Red Bean, Mini Fisky Pandan Lotus, Mini Fisky Chocolate, Mini Fisky York Dragon, Mini Fisky Chocolate, Mini Shanghai White Lotus, Mini Fisky

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4 Things a Chinese Restaurant Should NOT Do

Photo by Wan San Yip on Unsplash

We walked into a Chinese restaurant. It was full house. The waiters were squeezing through the gaps around the restaurant. The restaurant was noisy as people were eating and talking loudly over the table.

We were seated at the table which we had booked earlier. The waitress took our orders.

We ordered our usual dishes: curry vegetables, sweet potato leaves, steam fish, beancurd, and egg foo young.

While waiting for our food, I can’t help to notice the following.

1. Not not serve garlic & chilli

A good meal is not without the condiments. I’m not talking about the salt and pepper. Not even the ginger. Don’t pass the ketchup. Skip the wasabi.

Sometimes only the soy sauce is present on the table.

Photo by GoodEats YQR on Unsplash

We are talking about the garlic and chilli. The garlic and chilli have to be minced and served in separate saucers.

Garlic adds flavour in the blend white rice and chilli spices up the food.

2. Not serve the drinks after the rice

The drinks – be it hot or cold – have to always be served before the rice.

We don’t want to start our meal with a dry throat. Gulping down the first spoonful of rice on a dry throat is a harsh experience. The rice can be stuck in the throat and we have to force it down to the stomach.

Its healthy to quench our thirsts after waiting a good 15 minutes for the food to be served.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

3. Not serve the curry last

Any dish can come last, except the curry!

The curry is the one dish which has to be served first after the rice. We don’t want the curry to be served last, when we’ve finished eating the other dishes and the rice.

Even if the curry is served last, there won’t be much space in the stomach. There has to be extra space for desserts.

Hence, the curry has to be served first with the rice. Curry goes well with rice. Without the rice, it is just missing something important.

Photo by Dipesh Gurav on Unsplash

4. Not a spoon for a spinach

The spinach is served. A spoon is given to pick the spinach from the dish.

Bear in mind that though spinach is a vegetable, it is not like other vegetables – french beans, tauge, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, etc. These vegetables are for the picking, whereas spinach is not!

Spinach is an interwoven and interlocking strands of greens. There are a lot of gaps in between.

It is somewhat like noodles and spaghetti. Strings of greens attached to each other with gaps in between. A fork is needed to pick through and up the spinach.

Photo by Ponyo Sakana from Pexels

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