Everybody loves holidays and one of the great things about living in a different culture is that there is double the number of holidays to celebrate! We’ll still partake in our traditional holidays, but now we get a whole new set of special days to enjoy.
One such day, the Mid-Autumn Festival, is tomorrow. This holiday (also known as the “Moon Festival” or “Lunar Festival”) is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, which is basically the full moon that falls sometime in September. I absolutely love how this day is celebrated here – families gather outside in the pleasant autumn weather to eat BBQ and moon cakes while gazing at the full moon. It is a time for families to gather and to reflect on those who are far away or passed away. Since everyone is admiring the same full moon at the same time, there is a very tangible sense of togetherness, hence the expression “when the moon is full, mankind is one”. I wish we had a holiday that was as simple and well-meaning as the Moon Festival. Perhaps our closest parallel is Thanksgiving – not in terms of origins or meaning, but because it is celebrated in a less commercial manner with family and reflection.
|I took this during the last full moon looking |
towards the Taipei 101 Buidling.
A highlight of the festival is eating moon cakes. These little guys are intense. They are the size of a mini-cupcake, but are more dense and rich than anything I’ve ever eaten. Moon cakes come in several shapes and sizes, but the traditional kind has a somewhat crispy outer crust with a super-rich and sweet filling that contains a salted egg yolk. One of these will stick with you for hours – don’t try snacking on one before dinner, believe me. Jess came home with an entire box which she received as a gift from a student’s parents. Hopefully we can give them away because I can’t not eat them, even though I know that just one of them probably contain as many calories as a four course meal.
Moon cakes have an interesting origin that goes back to the Yuan dynasty. The Han people of the time resented the Mongol rule of the Yuan dynasty and wanted to plan a rebellion. Zhu Yuanzhang and his advisors came up with a plan that involved spreading a rumor that a deadly plague was sweeping through the country, and the only prevention was to eat special moon cakes. They quickly distributed the cakes which contained a secret message to revolt on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. It worked and the Ming revolution was successful, thanks in part to these yummy little belly bombs.
We are celebrating the Moon Festival on our roof tomorrow night with our neighbors at a potluck party. Hopefully the weather will be as nice tomorrow as it was all day today – 70 degrees and a clear blue sky. This is a much deserved change after a stretch of rainy weather. We’re looking forward to the opportunity to get to know our neighbors, eat some BBQ, and enjoy the full moon on a nice rooftop garden, and to think about all the people who we miss on the other side of the world.
Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!