Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mid-Autumn Festival - 2008

How time flies. We are celebrating yet another Mid-Autumn Festival this Sunday though I suspect some of us still have last year's mooncakes in the fridge!

The Mid-Autumn Festival (also known as Mooncake Festival or Lantern Festival in Singapore and Malaysia) falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month of the Chinese calendar (usually around mid- or late-September in the Gregorian calendar), a date that parallels the Autumn Equinox of the solar calendar. This is the ideal time, when the moon is at its fullest and brightest, to celebrate the abundance of the summer's harvest. Read the history of how it all began.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated in Chinese communities all over the world.



The traditional food of this festival is the mooncake, of which there are many different varieties. Local varieties include green tea, pandan (a kind of aromatic leaves used for cooking) and even durian flavour. Of late, these mooncakes come packed in very inviting containers. Truth be told that some customers are more attracted to the containers than the mooncakes themselves. Some have made a hobby of collecting these pretty containers.

Wikipedia says that the Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the two most important holidays in the Chinese calendar (the other being the Chinese Lunar New Year), and is a legal holiday in several countries. Not quite correct here. To the Chinese, the most important holiday or festival is the Winter solstice day (Dec 22) though it is not declared a legal holiday in Malaysia.

Back to the Mid-Autumn Festival - In ancient times, farmers celebrate the end of the summer harvesting season on this date. Traditionally, on this day, Chinese family members and friends gather to admire the bright mid-autumn harvest moon, and eat moon cakes and pomeloes together. Like all holidays, dinner is an elaborate affair on this day. Accompanying the celebration, there are additional cultural or regional customs, such as listed below though personally, I have not seen all of them being practised this part of the world.

The Traditional customs include:

1. Eating moon cakes outside under the moon - still practised here

2. Putting pomelo rinds on one's head - haven't seen this amusing sight

3. Carrying brightly lit lanterns - they are also hung in the courtyard

4. Burning incense in reverence to deities including Chang'e (who is supposed to be living on the Moon according to legend) - yes, for Toaists/Buddhists. I remember hinting to my grandmother (she's no longer with us) that man has landed on the Moon.

5. Planting Mid-Autumn trees - have not seen done.

6. Collecting dandelion leaves and distributing them evenly among family members - something new to me.

7. Lighting lanterns on towers - probably similar to #3.

8. Fire Dragon Dances - not seen this part of the world. We only have Dragon dances during the Chinese New Year.

For those celebrating, have a Happy Mid-Autumn Festival.

Source: Wikipedia

Related posts:
Mid-Autumn Festival 2007
Mid-Autumn Festival 2006
Mid-Autumn Festival 2005 - What it means in various countries
Mid-Autumn Festival 2005

18 comments:

  1. Fascinating!

    How sad that, here in Japan, the Autumnal Equinox is just another day for cleaning the family graves...

    At least the ancient Celts used to keep an all-night vigil to make sure the spirits coming out on that night didn't get too naughty!

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  2. (Oops...I forgot! Forgotten habits resurrect hard...)

    Vernal Equinox it is not,
    Just coming off when it is hot.
    Keeping our graveyards clean,
    Quaint indeed is this scene
    Of September, but mooncakes we've not!

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  3. woo...I haven't seen anyone with pomelo rind on their heads..hhahha.

    I like the series of mooncake photos..lovely and yum yum. I received couple of mooncakes these past 2 days..:) Have a fun mooncake festival this Sunday Happysurfer!

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  4. MM, the human race sure keeps strange customs, don't we? Interesting about ancient Celts.

    Respecting the deceased
    Elders would be pleased
    Strange customs of ours
    Knocking on wood for powers
    Asking for troubles to be eased

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  5. MBL, you too. Enjoy your mooncakes and your lantern. :p

    Talk about lantern, I used to have a dragon-shaped lantern. It was quite a long lantern. The interesting thing about it is it wasn't dangled from the stick but it is held up by a long stick in the center. Cool, huh?

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  7. Mooncakes are very sweet and heaty. Can't take too many at one shot :p

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  8. Yuany, so sorry to hear that you will not be spending this year's Mid-Autumn Festival with your family but hope you will enjoy it just the same with your friends. Best wishes for a happy Mid-Autumn Festival wherever you are.

    Thank you for visiting and thanks for the site to learn Chinese.

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  9. MB, mooncakes are sweet and heaty. You know, I've never looked at them as heaty. You are right. They are heaty because they are baked. Thanks for the heads-up.

    Mooncakes best taken with hot Chinese tea. That I know.

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  10. one thing's for sure: if i eat 1 full-sized mooncakes in one shot. i would probably develop a sore-throat and constipation. Worse still, fever :p

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  11. MB, one whole cake at one time is too extreme for me. I normally can go up to just 3/8 at one time. Probably that's why I don't feel the heat. Like you said, they are too sweet too.

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  12. hi happysurfer

    yr no. 2 sure if funny lah haha. and the link to it... lol. btw happy mid autumn! :)

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  13. Ah, we ate moon cakes tonight and sat outside to watch the moon while scratching Momo the Wonder Dog behind the ears. Wonderful. Didn't have pomelo rinds on our heads though!

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  14. Hey, your photos of mooncakes look so delicious despite me haven eaten so many mooncakes these past few days! I think I'm a hopeless mooncake lover. This year, tried the jelly mooncakes and was surprised they were very good! I never thought much about them the last time.
    The traditional customs you listed - I only follow one ie. the first one. Haha! I'll leave the lantern carrying to the kids. : )

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  15. Hi QC, hope you had a good time, with or without that pomelo rind on your head. LOL!

    It rained, so there wasn't any moon here last night. How strange. No moon on this night of all nights.

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  16. PandaB, awwshucks! No pomelo rinds on your heads? LOL! Well, at least you had the moon, got to sit outside, enjoyed mooncakes and had Momo the Wonder Dog for company.

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  17. Foong, I haven't tried jelly mooncakes but they do sound delicious. This year, I seem to have eaten quite a fair bit of mooncakes. Yum!

    At least you scored a point in the traditional customs. Okay, you pass as a Chinese. LOL!

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