Last week was the Mid-Autumn Festival, a period of merriment in which family and friends gather together to remember the importance of their social and kindred bonds. A time to spend with your nearest and dearest having meals, day trips and to pass on sentiments of general well-being. For me, it took on a special significance of my own- a day off. It takes place during the tail end of a lunar period, in which the moon represents immortality- a jovial time indeed. The act of presenting a relative or friend with a Moon Cake is therefore looked upon as particularly important- it is a signal that the friendship will continue to be healthy and never extinguish. Unsure about how to use this system, I gave my new Chinese teacher one, as I think it would be a reasonable ice-breaker. Apparently, there needs to be an existing friendship in the first place, so it was a bit weird, but never mind. Next time for an ice-breaker I’ll get her a polar bear and she what she makes of that. (I’ll get my coat, again).
The Moon Cakes themselves come in a variety of sweet and savoury versions, including habitually a lotus seed paste with a dried, sweetened egg yolk in the centre. However, dried fruit or even vegetables have come to fashion more recently, with staunch traditionalists sticking solely to the original blend. Although they only measure 5-10 cm in dimension, and 3 or so thick, I’d prefer to not drop one on my toe or lift them at the gym, due to their unique denseness. A denseness which would redden the face of Hassium, if you will. (It’s not very often that I have a chemistry joke, so those who didn’t click the link, you’re welcome).
Less traditional ones range from anything to chocolate and nuts, to meat and vegetables, yet I never once knew before I bit into them what would be coming out… I thought of a business scheme to exploit my own heritage- creating a Pork Pie Moon Cake (if that is available for Copyright, I’ll probably claim it). I’m not sure whether this is strictly in the spirit of the traditional festival, but seemingly a wave of modernity has sliced clean through the flesh of the festival, leaving only the core values and symbolism undisturbed. You may turns your attentions to a fellow blogger on this subject:
- Ever Heard of McMooncakes?: 5 Not-So Ordinary Mooncakes from China (patablefoodrecipes.wordpress.com)
It is becoming less unusual to exchange other gifts, or even spend time away from the family during this time, which (for a festival that ranks highly on the Chinese calender) is slightly disappointing. The business is huge, but cynics may point out that these gifts are often given with another cash incentive, from businessman to businessman, which rather tarnishes the whole affair. In a country that is supposedly rife with corruption, convicted politician Bo Xilai may have something to say about this! So that I’m not hounded for this, I’ll add the disclaimer that Chinese government officials were banned from using public funds to buy Moon Cakes. I fear that if an expenses scandal ever came out here, like that of the MP’s in the UK a few years ago, the contents of each list would be somewhat stranger.
Nevertheless, the commercialisation of the festival has brought a few more factors to the party, namely good-natured competition between businesses and shopping centres to create the biggest Moon Cakes with the most amount of fillings. The elaborate packaging adds a heightened sense of occasion to proceedings, too. They can in some instances be treated better than fine wines, packed neatly into cases and wrapped immaculately like a box of the finest Valentine’s day chocolates. A perhaps more rational thought on why there has been a defection from the norm is because they are sometimes not all that pleasant (but say it quietly!!). Also, there are health implications to a Moon Cake which rival that of a deep-fried mars bar, and consciousness is a biggie in the 21st century apparently!!
So, just a short one this time, but I hope you have learned a little about the Mid-Autumn festival!
For those of you who require a cheap laugh, I have had two more comparisons to add to Messieurs Murray and Button in the increasingly unlikely shape of:
1) Mr Bean
2) Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory…
Have a lovely week out there!!