Also known as Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, this is the third major festival of the Chinese calendar and is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month.
While this festival corresponds with other harvest festivals observed by Western cultures, in Hong Kong and China it is held in conjunction with the annual Lantern Festival. The next Mid-Autumn Festival will occur on the evening of Wednesday 4 October 2017.
The festival is also an occasion for family reunions and, as with all Chinese traditions, eating features heavily in the program. Families customarily gather together for dinner and an evening stroll with their lanterns.
Legend recounts that during the Yuan Dynasty (A.D. 1280-1368) a secret rebellion against the Mongolian rule was organized. In order to coordinate the rebellion without it being discovered, rebellion leaders decided to use the impending Moon Festival to their advantage by baking secret messages into mooncakes. On the evening of the moon Festival, the rebels secretly attacked and overthrew the government, establishing the Ming Dynasty (A.D. 1368-1644). It remains a mystery as to whether this Chinese version of the “Trojan Horse” story is true, but it did serve in making mooncakes more popular than ever before.
Today’s mooncakes, which seem to be for sale in virtually every food shop and restaurant commencing July/August, are a delectable treat. Traditionally, they are filled with sweetened lotus or red bean paste and often a salted duck’s egg yolk. More modern varieties incorporate flavors such as coffee or pineapple; even low-fat and low-sugar versions are quite common. While its description may not at first appeal to the western palate, we suggest you give it a taste for yourself - you may just be surprised!
The lanterns you see colorfully decorating buildings and pavements are a crucial part of the festival. Usually carried by children, families parade with their lanterns, lit with a red candle inside. The more traditional shapes include the fish and rabbit (to commemorate the rabbit that lives in the moon). More modern designs include favorite cartoon characters, conveniently lit with a battery-operated light bulb to avoid the danger of your lantern catching fire and contravening litter laws.
In Hong Kong and China, any open space or mountain top is crowded with people trying to get a glimpse of this season’s auspicious full moon. Many families climb the highest peak or spacious area after the family union dinner for this nighttime spectacle, so expect heavy traffic during the evening.
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