The Mid-Autumn Festival – A time to be together with family and friends:
If you are new to Asia, you might want to know about the Mid-Autumn Festival coming up on October 4 this year. It falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month which offers up the biggest, brightest full moon of the year. It’s a joyous time, with parallels to the Thanksgiving in the USA. It is a time for family reunions, for “Moon Cakes” and for lantern parades for children.
Mooncakes are a hallmark of the Mid-Autumn Festival. They are round (in Chinese, this sounds like reunion) and there are many variations. Traditional mooncakes have a thin pastry skin surrounding a sweet, dense lotus seed paste filling. Often there is a salted egg yolk in the center, again symbolizing the full moon. Mooncakes are always embossed with a symbol, good luck or some other wishful sentiment.
Colorful paper lanterns are also traditional, again symbolizing the light of the harvest moon. Not long ago, there were candlelight paper lanterns that children would carry in parks and parades. In today’s more practical world, they are bright plastic with battery powered lights but whatever form, they are truly something to behold.
Here are some variations on the theme throughout Asia:
- Japan: The “Tsukimi” festival dates back more than 1,000 years. The Japanese favour beautiful, elaborate rice paper decorations made from “Susuki” or pampas grass. And rather than Chinese style mooncakes, the Japanese prefer glutinous rice cakes.
- Vietnam: Similar to China, Mid-Autumn is very centered on children and family reunions. Parents prepare toys and snacks for their children, and the adults enjoy mooncakes and catching up with family and friends.
- Korea: Interestingly, this is a 3 day holiday called (Chuseok) roughly translated to Thanksgiving. It also involves a good measure of ancestor worship, in addition to the family gatherings and feasts. In Korea though, there is a solemn tea ceremony where women wear the very beautiful and colourful hanbok.
- Singapore: Celebrated in much the same way as it is in China. Mooncakes and children with lanterns are seemingly everywhere so enjoy yourself.
- Thailand: Again, much influenced by Chinese customs, the Thais impart their own unique style to the delicious mooncakes. Otherwise, it is also a time for family celebrations, for giving thanks, for enjoying a stunning full moon and just relaxing a bit.