August 2009 Archives
Everyone has heard of Chinese New Year, but did you know that they also celebrate a Lunar New Year? Well, they do! It's called the Mid-Autumn Festival (Zhongqiu Jie) or just the Chinese Moon Festival. Similar to Thanksgiving here in the states, the Lunar Festival is a time for families and loved ones to unite in celebration of the Autumn food harvest while basking in the warm waxy glow of the full moon.
Held on the 15th day of the 8th month on the Lunar Calendar, the tradition dates back 3,000 years to ancient China during the Shang Dynasty where moon worship was a faith of the day. Jumping forward to 1368 A.D during the Ming Dynasty, the Mid-Autumn Festival became immensely popular, and the love for this custom still continues today. The Festival is normally held outdoors in a park or public gathering area, a variety of festivities take place throughout the celebration. Attendees can enjoy parades, incense burning, planting mid-autumn trees, lighting lanterns, dragon dances, or just sitting back with a glass of wine while celebrating their happiness; or thinking of loved ones who are far from home, while gazing into the moon's silvery gleam. To compliment all the activities of the festival, Mooncakes are past out to the nearest and dearest.
Mooncakes are a special pastry eaten during the merriment of the festival. They are usually round like the moon and symbolize friendship, togetherness, fertility, and longevity. Mooncakes are filled with sweet filling such as lotus seed paste, red bean, taro, black sesame paste, and the list goes on. Some Mooncakes even contain an egg yolk from a preserved salted duck egg, representing the full moon. The outer crust of the cakes can range from light and flakey to soft and chewy depending on the bakery. One of the largest companies to manufacture these delicious treats is Hong Kong's Maxim's Group. They've been churning out top quality products since 1956. HK Maxim's Group signature Mei-Xin Mooncakes have won numerous awards for their superior craftsmanship and use of specially selected ingredients. Mei-Xin Mooncakes have been Hong Kong's best selling cakes for 11 years running. There is also a legendary story behind these celebratory pastries.
As the story goes, China was once ruled by Mongolians in the Yuan Dynasty. Unhappy with their foreign rulers, the people of China formed an underground rebellion. To conceal there secret messages, the leaders of the rebellion baked their attack plans into each Mooncake. The cakes were delivered in packs of four and cut into quarters then lined up to reveal their secret message. After the message was received, the cakes were eaten to destroy the evidence. On the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival, the rebels launched their attack on the government and successfully overthrew their oppressors. Today, Mooncakes are eaten to commemorate the victory of the rebellion. If you think this story is cool, wait til you hear the origin story of the Mid-Autumn Festival next week!