There is no place like Asia to celebrate festivals and autumn season is a very popular time for Asian festivals. One of them being the Mid-Autumn festival or as many young people would relate as the Mooncake Festival. China, Vietnam Taiwan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Macau celebrate this festival. Though every culture does have its reasons to change the dates Mainland China celebrates it within 15 days of the autumnal equinox on a full moon day. As you travel across the countries you will hear many versions of the legends that signify the celebrations. Each legend points out to harvest, thanksgiving and family reunion one way or another. Stay with me as I unfurl the festive celebrations and the significance of its customs.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is regarded very important in the calendar year next to the Lunar New Year. In Vietnam, it is the second most significant festival after Tet and hence a public holiday. In China, the people wait for this day after the Lunar Year celebrations to go on a holiday and meet the family. So why do they celebrate a full moon day in autumn? Firstly The term Mid-Autumn was only discovered during the Zhou period in the scriptures and the festival gained importance during the Shang dynasty and then became a real festivity during the Tang dynasty. This is a period in China and Vietnam when harvesting is over and it’s time to pay gratitude to a great harvest or pray for a better harvest next year. Life in ancient times was all about providing means and means were basic necessities like food, water, clothing and shelter. Agriculture was the main occupation and many subsequent trades depended on good crops. It is no wonder then that most festivities pay gratitude and worship towards agricultural harvest.
Full Moon Legend
In the Chinese mythology, the moon is associated with rejuvenation and its combination with water is as holy as birth. These symbolisms represent a fertile woman and hence women in the Chinese culture pray to the full moon for a harmonious matrimonial life. A full moon is considered to be pregnant and a crescent is when it has given birth to the celestial bodies, thereby the fuller the moon the holier it is. Besides these beliefs, there is a legend of the Goddess of Immortality – Chang’e whose sacrificial act of drinking the elixir of immortality for her beloved husband King Yi, gave birth to the legend of worshiping the full moon where she resides. The custom of offering the full moon fruits and mooncakes equates to worshipping Chang’e and wishing for her blessings for a romantic life with your spouse.
What is A Mooncake?
A mooncake is a round shaped dessert with lotus petals and Chang’e motif printed on the custard cake. Round shape in Chinese mythology is a symbol of fertility and prosperity and a full moon embodies those traits most perfectly hence the term mooncakes. These custard cakes are traditionally round shaped with a rich filling of lotus seed or red bean paste and are offered to your family members by a senior member to unify the family and strengthen the bonds. Traditionally these cakes were also offered to Chang’e the goddess of immortality by young women for a fruitful married life. Since the fast pace of life has taken over traditional customs, it is now quite customary to purchase mooncakes from a local patisserie shop or delicatessen and gift them to family as a sign of reunion and love. Imperial chefs had their own version of mooncakes and today chefs all over the world and especially Asia take pride in displaying their craft with the mooncake motif and gift wrapping. Mid-Autumn festival is now synonymous to the mooncakes and the frenzy in the local markets for placing orders well ahead of time. If you are visiting any of the Asian countries celebrating the festival you will notice that each region has its local variation in the recipe and its a great experience to pack a gift for yourself and enjoy the dessert. Of course this delicacy travels to far corners of the world thanks to the popularity of the festival and you could gift a box of these cakes to your family in North America, Europe and Australia. But if you ask me the true joy is to visit the destination and experience the festivities of the land being present with the locals.
Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong : The Mandarin Cake Shop is ready to take orders from 22 July 2016 for the festive gift box with a variety of mooncakes ranging from white lotus and golden lotus or the speciality mooncakes and a special hamper size gift. You can fill out a Mooncake order form or reach out to them for your orders. Visit mandarinoriental.com/hongkong
Grand Hyatt Macau : At a glance, you couldn’t disagree that this mooncake gift box is the prettiest in Asia this year. The design of the box has been given some thought for sure with beautiful luster beads, inspired by the beauty of the Butterfly and Peacock which adorn the surface of the boxes. The theme of this year is obvious Moon Bling Bling and has an LED effect added to the boxes to render another dimension to its already visual spectacle. But if the box is so dainty and intricate how do the mooncakes fair? The variety of mooncakes inside the box range in variety of Chocolate fondant, Salted egg custard, and Taro with lotus paste. You can place your orders or visit the hotel to get a taste of some over tea. Visit http://macau.grand.hyatt.com/
Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur: Shang Palace at Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur is ready for your orders with a range of mooncakes from the classic to the contemporary. You have varieties like Mini Ping Pei Durian, Mini Pei Pei Custard, Mini Ping Pei Spirulina, Mini Ping Pei White Chocolate with Orange Flavour. They are even offering a discount of 15% for orders before 31 July. Visit shangri-la.com/kualalumpur
St Regis Singapore: Yan Ting the award winning restaurant in Singapore brings artisanal craftsmanship to the tradition of Mooncakes. Snowskin mooncakes are the order of the season and while there are returning favourites on the menu, some debutants are promising by the sound of it. Pomegranate truffle with red bean chendol paste snow skin mooncake and purple sweet potato with water chestnut and salted yam paste snow skin mooncake are the two distinct debutants. Needless to say the traditional mooncakes are assured a permanent fixture in the gift box but you have a choice to order in the premium gift box section. Visit stregissingapore.com
Sheraton Saigon Hotel & Towers: Li Bai at Sheraton in Ho Chi Minh City will be ready for orders of their exquisite collection of moon cakes on 2 August 2016. There are seven flavours – White Lotus, Pandan, Green Tea, X.O, Cranberry, Pomelo, and Mixed Nut available for order. These mooncakes are handcrafted and homemade with freshest ingredients in a dainty gift box. Vietnamese mooncakes are quite different from the Chinese version so it will be good to try these out while you visit. Visit libaisaigon.com/en/