Hey Folks! It’s Mid-Autumn Festival!
Mid-Autumn Festival is said to be celebrated across the world wherever there are Chinese communities. It falls on the 15th of the 8th lunar month every year, which coincides with the autumn equinox, resulting in a bright and round moon. This festival is a time for family and friends to gather together to admire the moon and to appreciate and give thanks for the happiness, harmony and fullness of life. Traditionally, the Mid-Autumn Festival was celebrated to mark the end of autumn harvest and to give thanks to the gods for a fruitful harvest.
One of the most popular and more well-known tales associated with the Mid-Autumn festival would be the story of Chang-e and her husband Hou-Yi, an expert archer who shot down 9 out of the 10 suns to save the earth from burning. As such, he was rewarded with an elixir of immortality by the Heavenly Queen Mother. After which, an evil disciple decided to steal the elixir and in an attempt to prevent the theft, Chang-e swallowed the elixir and floated high up to the sky. Chang-e’s deep love for Hou-Yi drew her towards the moon where she made her eternal residence in a bid to stay close to her husband, as the moon is the closest place to earth on heaven. When Hou-Yi shouted Chang-e’s name, he was amazed to see a figure appear on the moon that look exactly like Chang-e. Hence, he offered her favourite food and Chang-e became known as the Goddess of the Moon and people began worshiping her for peace and luck.
Mid-Autumn Festival is coming and how much do you know about the festival? Do you know that the Mid-Autumn Festival is a public holiday in some countries? And have you wondered how people celebrate this festival across the world? What interesting customs and traditions do others practice? Which country makes special rice dumplings? Which country hold BBQ parties?
Read on to find out how our friends from all over the world celebrate this festival (and maybe borrow some ideas to spice up your celebration)! It’s certainly more than eating that new white chocolate truffle-flavoured mooncake from that atas hotel, or that addictive mao shan wang mooncake!
Singapore’s Mooncake Festival
If we’re not mistaken, Singapore is the only country to name this festival after the associated food. How creative!
More popularly known as the “Mooncake Festival’, Singapore celebrates Mid-Autumn Festival with mooncakes, pomelos and lanterns. Mooncakes are traditionally baked pastries stuffed with filling made with a rich and thick sweet lotus seed paste containing a whole salted egg yolk which symbolises the full moon. However these days, many creative flavours flood the market, with each hotel coming up with innovative ideas to fight for attention. Other than competing on flavours, these mooncakes are packed in exquisite boxes and are often gifted as gifts to loved ones, or business partners. Don’t be shy to admit that you still keep those pretty oriental boxes because sure, we’re guilty of that.
It is common sight for children to carry lanterns and walk around the neighbourhood. Solving Chinese riddles written on slips of paper attached to lanterns is also something that can’t be missed! Hence, most children would also know the festival by the name “Lantern Festival”.
Also, do look around at the beautiful Mid-Autumn Festival decorations and lighting put up in various areas in Singapore such as in Chinatown!
The Second Children’s’ Day in Vietnam
In Vietnam, Mid-Autumn Festival is called “Tết Trung Thu” in Vietnamese, and is more popularly know as “Children’s Festival” due to the great emphasis placed on children, where parents buy all sorts of snacks and lanterns for their children. Though Vietnamese celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival by eating mooncakes just like the Chinese, the meaning behind this festival is vastly different. Rice is harvested before the festival, and during the festival, households will make offerings to the God of Earth. As parents are often busy with harvesting all year round, this festival would be the best time for them to enjoy some quality time with their children.
Another important custom of the Mid-Autumn Festival in Vietnam would be that carp-shaped lanterns are carried around. It is known that a carp spirit once took away the lives of many during Mid-Autumn night, such that people were traumatised and did not dare to leave their houses at night. Later, a wise man decided to make a carp-shaped lantern with a stick sticking out of its belly to scare away the carp spirit. The carp spirit was indeed frightened and did not come out and kill during Mid-Autumn since then. Hence, people started following suit.
Make the tsukimi dango like in Japan
Mid-Autumn Festival in Japan is called Tsukimi (月見) or Otsukimi, which literally means moon-viewing in Japanese. During the Mid-Autumn Festival, the Japanese would use newly-ripe taro, beans, radish and sweet potatoes to make steamed buns, rice cakes and gnocchi which are essentially soft dough balls. Tsukimi dango, also known as rice dumplings are also eaten and are definitely a must-have!
The Japanese pampas grass called susuki (also called silver grass), is a common decoration used during the festival, and symbolises the arrival of autumn. It is said to have the power to ward off evil spirits, and is also seen as a token of appreciation for the moon god.
Tsukimi dango are actually relatively easy to make and it is also up to you to add your own twist to the recipe by changing the flavour of the dumplings! This not only allows you to have a taste of the oishii (tasty) tsukimi dango, but also an awesome bonding time with your family or colleagues! Absolutely a fun team building activity, where you get to make and eat such traditional Japanese food with your colleagues other than just mooncakes!
(Recipe as from http://www.nic-nagoya.or.jp/en/e/archives/4406)
One 120g bag of dango flour だんご粉1袋 (dango kona) will make about 15 dango.
– 1 cup of dango flour (about 120g) だんご粉
– 1/3 cup warm water (about 100 ml)
– 2 tablespoons of sugar (optional)
– Other flavourings (optional)
– Small amounts of extracts, espresso powder, cocoa, matcha and powdered milk can be added to create flavored dough
– Add the flour, sugar (optional), and flavourings (optional) in a large mixing bowl, and mix lightly.
– Add water to the flour slowly, then kneed and mix. The resulting dough should not be too soft and should be well mixed.
– Make 15 small, round dumplings each about the size of a ping-pong ball.
– Boil some water in a pot and gently place the dango balls in. Boil until the balls float, then continue cooking them for another minute.
– Take off the heat and add cold water to the pan. Place the dango on a mesh tray and for cooling.
BBQ under the stars (and moon) in Taiwan
Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節) in Taiwan is a public holiday when families and friends come together to worship the moon and the approaching autumn. In Taiwan, the festival is celebrated by eating mooncakes, pomelos and something more peculiar would be having barbecues with their loved ones. One interesting fact! Barbecues became a tradition for Taiwanese during this festival though nobody really knew how this origin came about! Such an activity has become so popular among the Taiwanese that every year during the Mid-Autumn Festival period, the government will open up to a total of 20 riverside parks for public barbecues! It is a really fun sight where everyone just comes together for a really good BBQ sesssion under the stars, and of course, the moon.
Why not get some ideas from the Taiwanese and organise a Mid-Autumn Festival BBQ session with your fellow colleagues? Certainly serves as an awesome and fun team building activity in Singapore, enjoying the food and some drinks in a breezy park, and of course, quality time spent with your colleagues. Who knows, you may be the one setting the BBQ trend during the Mid-Autumn Festival here in Singapore. Sounds like real fun doesn’t it? Let’s get the fire started!
Happy Chuseok in South Korea
Mid-Autumn Festival in South Korea is also known as Chuseok 추석, one of the major holidays in Korea, and is a 3-day holiday when Koreans typically visit their ancestral hometown to pay respects to their ancestors, as well as to share a feast of traditional Korean food with their family. One of the must-have traditional food during Chuseok would be the songpyeon (송편; 松편), which is a traditional type of Korean ricecake stuffed with ingredients such as mung beans, sesame seeds, walnut, cinnamon, black beans, pine nut, chestnut, jujube and honey. Songpyeon translates into pine tree in Korean, and as the name suggests, the preparation of songpyeon involves steaming it over pine-needles, which contributes to its unique taste and aromatic fragrance. On the eve of Chuseok, families would gather to make together. As an old Korean saying goes, the person who makes the most aesthetically pleasing songpyeon will meet a good spouse or give birth to a beautiful baby, which explains why members of the family all try their very best to make the prettiest songpyeon!
Below is an image of songpyeon! Looks really pleasing don’t they?
Ssireum (Korean wrestling) and Ganggangsullae (Korean circle dance) as seen below are also unique to Chuseok in Korea!
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