Today I wrote a piece for International Living Magazine’s Globetrotter section, the portion of the magazine dealing with interesting events and practices around the world.
I chose the Mid-Autumn, or “Mooncake” Festival, observed in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Singapore, and Malaysia. Held on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar with full moon at night, occurring in late September to early October on the Gregorian calendar, it’s second in importance only to Chinese New Year for the Chinese and Tet for the Vietnamese.
The holiday celebrates three basic concepts: gathering (of family and friends and/or crops); thanksgiving (for harmonious unions and/or the harvest); and praying (for a spouse, a child, health and longevity, etc.).
Dragon and lion dances are performed, and lanterns play a prominent role in the festival: carried, floating in the sky, fastened to towers, even sometimes covered with riddles which celebrants seek to answer. Perhaps after a bit of Cassia wine–a distilled beverage with hints of cinnamon, apricots, and peaches that is traditionally consumed during the Mooncake Festival–the answers become even more creative.
Making mooncakes, the eating of which is thought to bring good luck, is one of the traditions of the festival. In Chinese culture, a round shape symbolizes completeness and reunion, so the sharing of these treats among family members signifies the completeness and unity of families.
I hunted for a mooncake recipe online and found this: https://www.finedininglovers.com/recipes/dessert/chinese-food-mooncake-recipe/
Immediately I had questions: Is “golden syrup” maple syrup? Nearest store for lotus seed paste and rose-flavored cooking wine? What do they mean by “kitchen paper”–paper towels? And who wipes their egg yolks dry, anyway?
It seemed overwhelming, especially when I learned that although mooncakes are typically a few inches in diameter, imperial chefs have made some as large as several feet in diameter. I can’t even imagine.
Ah, well, there are always chocolate velvet cupcakes, which I can find, fresh from the bakery, here in Lisbon. They always bring me luck.
And they’re round, too.