Why do we Celebrate the Mid Autumn Festival?

Why do we Celebrate the Mid Autumn Festival?

Why do we Celebrate the Mid Autumn Festival?

The Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month. Every year, people will celebrate by gifting and consuming mooncakes, making and playing with lanterns and watching the full moon with family and friends. The Mid-Autumn festivities include the guessing of riddles, tea sampling and writing poetry. Despite all the activities, do you really know why we celebrate it?


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History of the Mid-Autumn Festival

The tradition of celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival started more than 2,000 years ago as a post-autumn harvest celebration, devoted to thanking the gods for blessing them with good harvest. It is believed that the Mid-autumn Festival was celebrated during the Song dynasty, due to their tradition of worshiping the moon. The most famous folk tale about the Mid-Autumn festival is the story of Chang-E and her husband Hou Yi. Legend goes that the world initially had 10 suns, which made the weather unbelievably hot.


Hou Yi, the hero who shot down 9 suns
(Image Credit: http://www.thedailychina.org)


One day, Hou Yi, who was an archer and an Imperial Guard, shot down 9 of the suns, saving everyone from the unbearable heat. In return for his heroic act, the Emperor awarded him a pill that granted him immortality. He hid the pill away from his wife, who stumbled upon it one day and swallowed it accidentally as he was fighting to get his pill back, In an instant, Chang-E ascended to the moon. They were separated forever, though Hou Yi could visit Chang-E on the 15th day every month during the full moon as he was gifted a special talisman.

During the Mid-Autumn festival, thirteen types of offerings are made to the moon, such as mooncakes and pomelos. The number thirteen symbolizes the number of months in a full lunar year. These offerings are prepared by the females of the family, with each offering bearing a specific significance. During the festival, (people also admire osmanthus flowers, which symbolize purity and innocence. It is also the flower that blooms during this period.


Chang-E floats away to the moon after ingesting the elixir while Hou Yi remains a mortal
(Image Credit: es.shenyun.com)


History of Mooncakes

The role mooncakes play has changed throughout the times. It was a messaging tool to aid Yuan China in their liberation attempts. Today, it is a symbol of family reunion, and is created in many delicious flavours and forms, including jelly mooncakes and snowskin mooncakes! The modern take of the mooncake makes us forget the initial usage of these cakes.

Mooncakes played an indispensable role in the liberation of Yuan China (1206–1341 CE) from the Mongols in the 14th century. Although large gatherings were prohibited, Zhu Yuan Zhang, the leader of the rebels used the mooncake to hide secret messages on the rebel details, which led to a successful mass participation for the rebellion. The strategy succeeded as the rebellion took place during the Mid-autumn Festival, hence the use and gifting of mooncakes did not stir suspicion.


Mooncake stuffed with message to Kill the Dazi (a humiliating term for the Mongols) on Mid-Autumn
(Image Credit: orientaldaily.on.cc)



Types of Mooncakes

Today, the mooncakes take on a more symbolic role in the Chinese culture. The roundness of the mooncake mirrors the moon on the mid-month, symbolizing completeness and togetherness. A full moon also symbolizes prosperity and reunion for the whole family. Hence, during the Mid-Autumn festival, mooncakes and tea is shared and enjoyed in family gatherings. While the shape of the mooncakes remain round, different parts of China came out with different ways to make it, leading to a variety of fillings and textures.


Types of mooncakes made in different parts of China
(Image credit: www.chinahighlights.com)


Cantonese-Style Mooncakes

  • Sweet with Various Fillings

Cantonese-style mooncakes originate from the Guangdong Province. The most used ingredients include lotus seed paste, melon seed paste, ham, chicken, duck, roast pork, mushrooms, and egg yolks.


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Beijing-Style Mooncakes

  • Known for their Meticulous Decorations

The Beijing-style mooncake is came from Beijing and Tianjin in North China. The taste of the mooncakes are sweet and they are well-known for detailed and elaborated decorations on the "skin" of the mooncake. The common proportion of pastry and filling for Beijing-style mooncakes is 4:6.


(Image credit: http://discover.china.org.cn)


Suzhou-Style Mooncakes

  • Unique "Skin" With Crisp Layers of Flaky Dough

Suzhou-style mooncakes represent the Yangtze Delta region around Shanghai. The Suzhou-style of mooncakes appeared more than a thousand years ago. It is one of the most special variation of mooncakes as the "skin" is made up of layers of flaky pastry, sculpted using a generous allotment of sugar and lard. Suzhou-style mooncakes can be both sweet and savory.



(Image Credit: redcook.net)



Chaoshan-Style Mooncakes

  • Larger Size with Vegetarian Paste Filling

Chaoshan is a region in Guangdong located in the Southeastern part of China where many ethnic Chinese in Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand come from. Chaoshan-style mooncakes have a distinct crust and the size of the mooncakes are larger than other varieties. The most commonly used fillings are mung bean paste, black bean paste and potato paste.


(Image Credit: ecns.cn)



Yunnan-Style Mooncakes

  • Ham Filling and Unique Flower-Incorporated "Skins"

The two most famous Yunnan-style mooncakes are ham mooncakes and flower mooncakes. Ham mooncakes are delicious, with fillings of diced ham and sweet honey. The flavor are both sweet and a little bit salty. Flowers are popular in Yunnan as cake fillings. Fresh roses or other edible flowers are wrapped in the pastry skin of flower mooncakes.


(Image Credit: www.yunnanexploration.com)


Hong-Kong-Style Mooncakes

  • "Ice-Skin" (also known as "snowskin")

Ice-skin mooncakes were first popular in Hong Kong. The skin of the mooncakes is not made of ice. They got this name because their skins are white, and are not baked in an oven, but stored in a refrigerator instead.


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Mooncakes in Singapore

In Singapore, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to the types of mooncakes available in the market. Here are just some of the unique mooncakes available in Singapore, thanks to highly-skilled chefs who are inspired by local cravings!


  • Pandan With Gula Melaka Snow Skin Mooncake

The most traditional and old-school favourite flavour combination!
(Image Credit: sethlui.com)


  • Milo Dinosaur Snow Skin Mooncake

A Singaporean favourite, need I say more?
(Image Credit: sethlui.com)


  • Lava Custard Mooncake

Inspired by the craze of the flowing custard (奶黄) bao? Very clever!
(Image Credit: sethlui.com)


  • Golden Moments Durian Mooncake

An added sophistication to the normal durian mooncake, more is definitely more in this case!
(Image Credit: sethlui.com)


  • Brown Sugar Milk Tea Truffle

Notes of Assam tea infused with gula melaka and milk, how can bubble tea lovers resist?
(Image Credit: thehoneycombers.com)


  • Sweet and Spicy Salted Yolk Hae Bee Hiam and Ondeh Ondeh Mooncakes

An unexpected flavour and a well-loved Malay kueh-inspired twist that sounds delicious!
(Image Credit: thehoneycombers.com)


Now that you have learnt more about the history of the Mid-Autumn festival and the different types of mooncakes, you may wish to try out the other styles of mooncakes that you have never had, or even try making your own! The Mid-Autumn Festival is all about giving and family, so do spend the night with them, enjoying the full moon while sipping on some Chinese tea!


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Have a ho (good) week ahead! 😊


Information Credit: eresources.nlb.gov.sg, www.chinahighlights.com

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