In just 10 days, it is time to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival again, one of the most important and celebrated festivals in Asia. Different communities in the vast continent have different reasons and ways of celebrating the annual festival. Most of them traditionally hold in common: celebrating under the full moon which symbolises fullness and prosperity of life, gathering with families and giving thanks for a full harvest.
Now get your mooncakes (or songpyeon) and lanterns ready, we’re about to drop some Mid-Autumn knowledge:
Têt Trung Thu (Vietnam)
(Photo source: event-carnival.com)
One of the biggest and most popular festivals in the country, celebrating the end of the harvest season. What sets it apart from other Mid-Autumn festivals it is also called Children’s Festival, since this is also a traditional celebration for Vietnamese children. In the olden days, parents were too busy during harvest season that once it ended, they would then make up for it by showering their children with nice foods and toys. As is with most Mid-Autumn festivals, this is the time for families to get together and crack out the lanterns and mooncakes (made of wheat and baked, or made of sticky rice), the popular round cakes that symbolise luck, happiness, health and wealth, eaten only during this festival.
Chuseok (South Korea)
(Photo source: koreafreeandeasy.blogspot.com)
Also known as the Korean Thanksgiving, the holiday period lasts for three days, including the days before and after Chuseok. This is one of the most important festivals for Koreans, when they would return to their hometowns to celebrate with their families. Tomb-sweeping and ancestral worship ceremonies often take place during this holiday as it is also the time for them to pay respect to the spirits of their ancestors. Instead of mooncakes, however, Koreans consume songpyeon (pictured above), small rice cakes shaped like a half moon, filled with sweet fillings such as mung beans and sesame seeds.
Mooncake Festival (Malaysia)
(Photo source: china-spot.eu)
More popularly known as the Mooncake Festival and, at times, Lantern Festival. Judging by the former name, there’s no doubt as to what is the must-eat food during this month. Traditional mooncakes are filled with red bean or lotus paste, the pricier ones comes with a yolk or two from salted duck eggs. However, nowadays there are more options, including snowskin mooncakes, ice cream mooncakes and mooncakes with dubious fillings (sambal mooncake, anyone?). Not to mention the various designs they now come in: “Star Wars”, Hello Kitty, Doraemon, etc. Lantern parades are often held during this festival too, with more colourful lanterns than during the Chinese New Year period.
Lantern Festival (Singapore)
(Photo source: eastcoastlife.blogspot.my)
Similar to its neighbouring country, the festival is also called Lantern Festival. Again, emphasis is given on lanterns and mooncakes during this festival. Singapore has even more options when it comes to mooncakes, every year businesses in the countries, including hotels, will churn out new flavours and designs. As for the lanterns, colourful ones in various shapes and sizes can be seen adorning the city. Children used to carry adorably-shaped lanterns (think cute animals like bunnies) but now it is more the norm to hang such lanterns. To see the most colourful, themed lanterns, head over to Clarke Quay. The riverside promenade changes its lantern themes every year.
(Photo source: wallcoo.net)
In Japan, the festival is called Tsukimi, or Moon Viweing Festival. It is also another country where mooncakes aren’t the star on the menu, but rice cakes. These white glutinous rice cakes, called Tsukimi dango, are always part of the Tsukimi dishes, which include taro, Edamame (soy beans), chestnuts and rice wine, Sake. The rice cakes are sometimes decorated like a rabbit, since the animal is a significant part of Japan’s moon festival legend, “The Rabbit in the Moon”. Another distinction in the country’s way of celebrating the festival is the silver grass. It serves as an offering to the Moon God.