It was the Mid Autumn Festival (August 15th in Chinese Calendar) yesterday, one of the most important festivals in Chinese culture. In tradition, Chinese celebrate the festival in three phases - Welcoming the Moon (August 14th), Admiring the Moon (August 15th) and Chasing the Moon (August 16th).
In Hong Kong, the public holiday falls on the Moon Chasing day. It used to be on the Festival day, ie. 15th, but somehow the former colonial government said people admire the moon at night, they can still work in the day. However people sleep late after admiring the moon, the following day became a holiday. And this has been practicing after the handover through now.
The Mid Autumn Festival is all about the moon, moon cake, lanterns and many other celebrations. Let's talk about all these in Hong Kong.
The Moon - Although the moon looks the same anywhere in the world, but this was the one I took after dinner last night. And I had a second chance of admiring her while on bed - she was shining on my bed through the window. Exactly what Li Bai said - 床前明月光. It was a bit of luck, because admiring the moon all depends on weather.
Mid Autumn Moon in Hong Kong
September 8, 2014 - 8.16 pm
The Moon and Chang'e - the moon has always been a charming subject and hence there was a legend saying that Chang'e (a very beautiful woman) stole and ate some 'longevity pills' and flew to live in the moon. In fact she was lonely there with only a rabbit friend. Hence there was a poem saying 嫦娥應悔偷靈葯, 碧海青天夜夜深. (Chang'e would not stole the pills if she had a second chance.)
Chang'e Flew to the Moon - c.1500BC
The Rabbit Lanterns - this has been a forever symbol of Mid Autumn lanterns in Hong Kong. When we were kids, we lit the rabbit with candles and we needed to handle with care as we were playing with real fire. Nowadays there are electronic ones which are more safe. Knowing that rabbit is the only friend of Chang'e in the moon, it is easy to understand why rabbit lantern is such an important symbol of the festival.
Star Fruit Lanterns - there are several fruits more popular around the Mid Autumn Festival. Star Fruit is one of them. No wonder star-fruit-shape lanterns has also been one of the most traditional lanterns in Hong Kong.
Star Fruit Lanterns
Traditional Lanterns - although electronic lanterns are widely popular in Hong Kong, but it can never replace the traditional way we play with lanterns. At home, we prefer to lighting lanterns with candles. After all, it's more fun although we had to take extra care to look after them.
Moon Cake and Taro - what is the relation between moon cake and taro? 'Rich people eat moon cake, poor people eat taro'. What? Is there such a rule? Of course not, but in any society, there are rich people and poor people. Somehow most Cantonese in Hong Kong have heard about this: 有錢人家吃月餅, 冇錢人家吃芋頭. Mid Autumn Festival is a time when family members get together, enjoy food and celebrate. If you want to eat something good but cannot afford moon cake, then eat taro instead. This could be the poor people ridiculing themselves.
Moon Cake and Taro
Pomelo Lanterns and Peels - pomelo is one of the fruits exceptionally popular at Mid Autumn Festival. As it is large in size, it is good for family members to share. Apart from this, the pomelo peels are very useful. You see, the peels are so thick, hence we make lanterns and food out of it.
Pomelo Lantern - it all depend on your skill. Some people can make very creative pomelo lanterns such as the one here.
Pomelo Peels Dim Sum - Some people even turn pomelo peels into food. Today (the Moon Chasing Day), I specially order this pomelo peels over my dim sum lunch as part of the festival celebration. In fact, cooking of pomelo peels take a bit of time and effort. My mother used to cook it at home. We need to get rid of the zest first and then soak the thick peels until soft, add some seasoning before steaming. When we were young, we had great fun helping our mother in preparing the pomelo peels and making of pomelo lanterns.
Steam Pomelo Peels with Shrimp Roes
If you want to learn more about the Mid Autumn Festival legends, stories and history, there is an article at the International Business Times. Take a look and have fun.
PS: Mid Autumn Festival usually occurs in September of western calendar. However 2014 Mid Autumn falls on September 8th which is the earliest in the recent 38 years. Why? We'll talk about this in my next post.