The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, the Mooncake Festival or the Lantern Festival, falls on the 15th day of the 8th month according to the Chinese lunar calendar. Mooncakes and lanterns are the symbolic associations with this month-long celebration which culminates on the festival date this year on the 15th of Sept. The Mid-Autumn festival is traditionally family reunion time – members of the family get together to enjoy a meal under the full moon which is believed to be the brightest and roundest on the day. Some say that it’s like a Chinese version of Thanksgiving, celebrated with mooncakes and tea (instead of turkey)
There are several legends surrounding the festival. The ancient Chinese observed that the movement of the moon had a bearing on the change of seasons and agricultural production. Hence, as a gesture of gratitude and to celebrate the harvest, they offered a sacrifice to the moon on autumn days, and the Mid-Autumn festival originated. However, one of the most popular legends is the legend of Chang’e, the lady who is believed to have floated to the moon after swallowing the elixir of eternal life, and who now lives on the moon.
How to Celebrate?
Visiting Chinatown during this festival is a tradition for many Singaporeans. Join them and walk down to Chinatown to enjoy the festivities.In Chinatown, you can see the colourful street decorations, beautiful lantern displays and festive street bazaars. Don’t miss the Opening ceremony cum light-up on Eu Tong Sen Street and New Bridge Road. Watch the nightly shows at Kreta Ayer Square, and join the extravaganza when locals and visitors alike gather for the Mass Lantern Walk, accompanied by dragon dancing, performances, percussion bands and amazing pyrotechnic displays.
If you want to avoid the hustle bustle of Chinatown, then head over to Esplanade. Moonfest – A Mid-Autumn Celebration, in Esplanade from 25th to 27th September, features both ticketed and free programmes. The highlights of the festival this year include Cantonese Opera productions at the Theatre, a folk song concert, a puppetry production for the young, Chinese music ensemble performances, witty lantern riddles, Chinese chess and the ever-popular Lantern Walk
What are mooncakes?
You have probably seen mooncakes all over Singapore, but aren’t exactly sure what they are. They’re simply small round pastries, thin pastry skin on the outside, a sweet and dense filling of red bean or lotus seed paste inside, and some may even have a full egg yolk inside as a symbol of full moon. So not for the pure vegetarians, and even if you are a vegetarian who eats eggs, you might still want to check for lard.
If you are wondering why mooncakes are always round, it is because in Chinese culture round signifies completeness and unity and sharing round mooncakes with family would signify completeness and unity of families.
You may also see some Chinese characters pressed on the top of a mooncake, these are for harmony, longevity, name of the bakery and the filling inside.
The variety of mooncakes with different types of crusts, fillings and regional variations from different parts of China is something similar to the different kinds of peda one would get as they move from the North to South in India.
Where to buy mooncakes?
If you are looking to present legendary, exquisite, handcrafted mooncakes to your business associates in Singapore then Raffles Singapore is your place. Goodwood Park Hotel, Ritz Carlton Millennia, Grand Hyatt, Peony Jade and Intercontinental are some of the other places, which offer mooncakes in a myriad of flavours.
Apart from the traditional options, you can get adventurous and try exotic flavours at Mezza 9 at the Grand Hyatt and Szechuan Court at Fairmont.
Happy Mid-autumn festival or Zhōng Qiū Jié kuài lè as one would say in Mandarin!
Mooncake Image Credit- Raffles Hotel Singapore