I posted a version of this article last year, but I have many new readers so I am sharing it again with updates for this year's festival - including the beautiful mooncake box designs for 2013.
The Mid-Autumn Festival, also called the Mooncake or Lantern Festival, is a traditional harvest festival that is celebrated annually in many Asian countries. This year, the festival takes place in Singapore from September 7 to October 4. The main celebration day is September 19, which is the 15th day of the eighth Chinese lunar month, when the moon is at its fullest.
The streets of Chinatown are decorated with 20,000 lanterns, along with stalls selling mooncakes, lanterns, and handicrafts. There are performances each evening with dancing, acrobats, and music.On the actual full moon day, family and friends gather to spend time together. Many years ago it was a day to give thanks for the harvest/crops.
The Mid-Autumn festival has a history of over 3,000 years, dating back to the moon worship in ancient times. According to legend, the festival celebrates the heroism of Chang’e. She was the wife of a ruthless ruler who drank an elixir of immortality in order to end her husband’s evil deeds. She became known as the Moon Goddess of Immortality and she lives on the moon.
The festival is full of colorful lanterns made of paper with motifs of rabbits, phoenix, fish and other auspicious animals. The lighting of the lanterns is to send wishes to the Moon Goddess.
Mooncakes are the most popular treat of the festival and are considered a delicacy. Production is labor-intensive as each cake is hand molded (see below), few people make them at home.
I was very surprised to see just how many companies make mooncakes for the short season and was intrigued with the highly decorative boxes.
Typical mooncakes are round with a rich thick filling usually made from red bean or lotus seed paste, a thin crust surrounds it. The very traditional cakes contain yolks from salted duck eggs to symbolize the full moon. The cakes have an imprint of the Chinese characters for "longevity" or "harmony" on the top.
Today, you can find just about any filling such as coffee, chocolate, nuts, fruits, vegetables, oreo cookie...
... even Haagen Dazs ice cream! It was delicious but did not resemble the taste of a mooncake in any way. The woman selling said it was more symbolic. Sounds like it is a way for Haagen Dazs to get in on the selling frenzy!
My favorite fillings are the lychee and green tea. The yam with coconut truffle was also tasty.
Mooncakes are very expensive, usually ranging from US$8 to US$30 PER CAKE. The ones below are $80 (approx $62 USD) for 4, and they are about 1 1/2 inch by 1 1/2 inch!! I am not a big enough fan to pay the high price of these special treats...
but I do love the boxes!
Several of the malls set up special booths where they sell the mooncakes and they let you sample them for free. I think I sampled enough to make two cakes!
The photo below was taken in the mall looking down on all the mooncake booths. Again, I am just fascinated by how many of them make and sell this speciality cake.
I hope you enjoyed learning a little slice of Asia culture - I sure do!
Sharing with Friday finds over at Kim's Cafe.