Monday, September 12, 2011

Mid-Autumn Festival

The Mid-Autumn Moon Cake Festival is one of the most enchanting nights on the East Asian calendar. Families in China, Malaysia and Singapore gather to give thanks, celebrate family unity, look at the full moon and enjoy a celebratory banquet.

The festival is an ancient Chinese tradition which commemorates China's 14th-century uprising against Mongolian occupation. Rebels wrote the call to revolt on pieces of paper and embedded them in cakes which they smuggled to compatriots.

Today, in honour of this, people eat special yuek beng (moon cakes) - pastry crust filled with sugary fillings such as lotus seed paste or red bean paste. Coloured Chinese paper lanterns, traditionally in the shapes of animals, hang from almost every house.


I was talking with a friend of mines at work today and she told me that the main day of the fesitval is today. Looking at my calander I see that it's becasue of the full moon. She told me also that the best Mooncakes can be purchased from T&T Asian Market in north calgary. Or you may also want to check out some of the bakeries in the downtown China town area.


The Mid-Autumn Moon Festival falls on the 15th day of the eighth moon of the Chinese lunar calendar. This year, the festival will take place on Monday, September 12th. It is one of the most charming and picturesque nights of the calendar when the moon is large and full.

The Festival celebrates the harvest of the year, similar to Thanksgiving Day. It is also a time for families getting together to enjoy a festive full dinner, to eat moon cakes and festive fruits such as Persimmon and Pomelo, to appreciate the beautiful moon at the night of the Festival. Colourfully lit paper lantern decorations are put up and children parade the lanterns as part of the celebration. Sometimes, riddles are placed on the lanterns and guessing the riddles is one of the favourite festival pastimes.

Legends associated with the Mid-Autumn Festival:

The Lady - Chang Er
The story dated around 2170 B.C. At that time, it was believed that the earth had ten suns circling over it, each taking its turn to illuminate the earth. But one day all ten suns appeared together, scorching the earth with their heat. The earth was saved by a tyrannical ruler and archer Hou Yi who succeeded in shooting down nine of the suns. One day, Hou Yi stole the elixir of life from a goddess. However his beautiful wife Chang Er drank the elixir of life in order to save the people from her husband's tyrannical rule. After drinking it, she found herself floating to the moon and has been residing there since. Hou Yi loved his divinely beautiful wife so much that he did not shoot down the moon.
The Hare - Jade Rabbit
In this legend, three fairy sages transformed themselves into pitiful old men and begged for food from a fox, a monkey and a rabbit. The fox and the monkey both had food to give to the old men, but the rabbit, empty-handed, offered his own flesh instead, jumping into a blazing fire to cook himself. The sages were so touched by the rabbit's sacrifice that they let him live in the Moon Palace where he became the "Jade Rabbit."
The Cake - Moon Cake
During the 14th century, China was ruled by the Mongolian people. The people were not happy being subject to foreign rule and decided to rebel. Leaders of the rebellion, knowing that the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival was drawing near, ordered the making of special cakes. Embedded in each cake was a message outlining the attack. On the night of the Festival, the rebels successfully overthrew the government. What followed was the establishment of the Ming dynasty (A.D. 1368-1644). Today, "Moon Cakes" made of ground lotus and bean paste, egg-yolk and other ingredients are prepared and enjoyed to commemorate this legend.

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