Mid Autumn or Mooncake Festival
The Mid-Autumn or Mooncake Festival falls on the 15th day of the Chinese eighth lunar month and it has been delayed until October this year because the lunar calendar needed to catch up with a double-Seventh month. It is celebrated to signify the end of the harvest season. As it is associated with paper lanterns, it is also called the Lantern Festival.
This year it fall on 6th October 2006, in Singapore the Chinese and non-chinese celebrate the festival with family gatherings, prayers, mooncakes and lantern parades by children. Weeks before the festival, Chinese families present gifts of mooncakes to friends and senior relatives to foster better ties with them.
On the 15th night when the moon is shining its brightest, offerings of mooncakes, pomelos, water calthrops, baby yams, oranges ,Chinese tea and many other traditional delicacies that are made to deities and ancestors, on the praying altar. Lighted lanterns are also hung conspicuously in front of homes. Prayers are offered with the customary lighting of joss-sticks, red candles and golden joss-paper are burnt. After prayers, there is feasting and merry-making with children carrying lighted lanterns around the neighborhood. Here they are sometimes joined by their non-Chinese friends in celebrating with lanterns.
As early as one month before the event, Chinese restaurants in Singapore sell mooncakes. In Singapore the best place for mooncakes is non other than in Chinatown. To the Chinese, the round shape of mooncakes symbolises family unity. Each mooncake is about the size of a human palm. Among the popular varieties are the black bean paste (tou-sha), brownish lotus paste (lien-yung) yellow bean paste (tou-yung). Usually the paste contains the yolk of a preserved duck’s egg to enhance the flavour.
They usually come in various shapes like dragon, butterfly, rabbit, carp and others. In keeping with the times battery operated lanterns are also available, but they are much popular as those lit by candles.
History behind the Mooncake Festival
Back during the Soong dynasty when the Chinese were oppressed by the Mongols, their rebel leaders sought to overthrow the Mongol overlords. As meetings were banned it was impossible to make plans. Liu Fu Tong of the Anhui Province came up with a plan by requesting permission to distribute cakes to his friends to bless the longevity of the Mongol emperor. He made thousands of cakes shaped like the moon and stuffed with sweet fillings. Inside each cake however was placed a piece of paper with the message: ‘Rise against the Tartars on the 15th day of the 8th Moon’. Reading the message, the people rose against the Mongols on a local scale. This rebellion enabled Chu Hung Wu, another rebel leader to eventually overthrow the Mongols. In 1368, he established the Ming dynasty and ruled under the name of Emperor Tai Tsu.
Henceforth, the Mid Autmn Festival was celebrated with mooncakes on a national level.