Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mid-Autumn Festival & Moon Cake

Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated all over China every year. This year the Mid-autumn day is on October 6, the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, around the time of the autumn.

This day was also considered as a harvest festival since fruits, vegetables and grain had been harvested by this time and food was abundant. Special foods for the festival included moon cakes, cooked taro and water caltrop, a type of water chestnut resembling black buffalo horns.

The round moon cakes were made with melon seeds, lotus seeds, almonds, minced meats, bean paste, orange peels and lard. Traditionally, thirteen moon cakes were piled in a pyramid to symbolize the thirteen moons of a "complete year," that is, twelve moons plus one intercalary moon.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is a traditional festivity for both the Han and minority nationalities. The custom of worshipping the moon can be traced back to the ancient Xia and Shang Dynasties (2000 B.C.-1066 B.C.). In the Zhou Dynasty (1066 B.C.-221 B.C.), people hold ceremonies to greet winter and worship the moon whenever the Mid-Autumn Festival sets in. It becomes very prevalent in the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) that people enjoy and worship the full moon. In the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279 A.D.), however, people send round moon cakes to their relatives as gifts in expression of their best wishes of family reunion. Since the Ming (1368-1644 A.D.) and Qing Dynasties (1644-1911A.D.), the custom of Mid-Autumn Festival mooncake celebration becomes unprecedented popular. Whenever the festival sets in, people will look up at the full silver moon, drinking wine to celebrate their happy life or thinking of their relatives and friends far from home, and extending all of their best wishes to them.

For generations, moon cakes have been made with sweet fillings of nuts, mashed red beans, lotus-seed paste or Chinese dates, wrapped in a pastry. Sometimes a cooked egg yolk can be found in the middle of the rich tasting dessert. People compare moon cakes to the plum pudding and fruit cakes which are served in the English holiday seasons.

Nowadays, there are hundreds varieties of moon cakes on sale a month before the arrival of Moon Festival.


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