Over the Moon with Autumn
If you have burnt your paper lanterns, raise both hands. One of the vivid things I remembered about the Lantern Festival (or so we call it sometimes locally), was burning those candle-lit foldable paper lanterns. Not being a very bright kid, I left my lantern on the floor of the playground as I went on to play with my brothers and neighbours. I came back to see ashes of what remains of my once beautiful fragile lantern. Back then, electronic lanterns were not popular yet.
Following the Chinese lunar calendar, the Mid Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the 8th month. The Mid Autumn Festival is also known as the Moon Festival as it is that time of the year whereby the moon is the roundest and brightest. This year, the Mid Autumn Festival is to fall on 27th of September, this coming Sunday.
The ancient Chinese observed that the movement of the moon had a close relationship with the changes of the seasons and the agricultural production. Thus, to show their gratitude to the moon and celebrate the harvest of their agriculture, they offered a sacrifice to the moon.
The origins of the festival we were told of as kids was the story about Chang Er, who in order to protect her husband’s elixir that was given to him by Wangmu (Queen of Heaven), swallowed the pill herself and flew to the moon. This pill, when taken by someone, would cause him to ascend to heaven and become a god/goddess. Hence, upon hearing that Chang Er became a goddess, the local folks started offering sacrifices to her and pray for peace and good luck. Since then, it became the custom of sacrificing to the moon and passed down generations to generations.
Now, we always look to the moon and hope to see Chang Er dancing. Or so we were told that we could see the shadows of Chang Er dancing during the Mid-Autumn Festival.
It happened during the Yuan Dynasty (1271 – 1368 AD), in which the Hans resistance wanted to overthrow the Mongol’s ruling. They planned an uprising but they have no way to inform every Han of the time of the uprising without being discovered by the Mongols. At that time, mooncakes were already important food of the Mid-Autumn Festival. So tapping on the Mid-Autumn Festival snack, the Hans spread a rumor that there was a winter disease that was spreading throughout the land and the only way to protect themselves were to eat mooncakes.
Therefore, they used the mooncakes to pass the messages to the Hans through slipping papers into the mooncakes and sold them to the common Han people. When the night came, a huge uprising broke out and from then on, people ate mooncakes every Mid-Autumn Festival to commemorate the uprising.
Fast forward to modern times, where most of us now have an amazing range of mooncakes with textures and flavours to choose from. This Autumn, everyone in our office celebrated Autumn with 4 well-loved classic flavours from Breadtalks’s Prestige mooncakes. We got to sample different flavours such as Lotus with Yolk Blend, Lotus with Melon Seeds and Wu Ren mixed nut paste. Crafted with premium preservative-free natural white lotus paste, the special yolk blend variety also promises a generous bite of smooth egg yolk evenly-distributed through every slice. Priced at $58.80 for a set of four, it was quite a savouring mouthful.
It is getting harder to resist the lure of mooncakes, with the ever-expanding range of flavours, creative combinations and textures. Besides traditional baked varieties, you can find mooncakes made with chocolate, ice cream, fruit, spices, tea or even infused with alcohol.
If you are watching your calories this Mid-Autumn Festival, there are some basic guidelines that you can abide by, as shared by Ms Bibi Chia, principal dietitian at Raffles Diabetes and Endocrine Centre.
Places To Visit
So we are done with the history of this festive season, now where should you head to with your family and friends this Sunday to soak up the atmosphere of the Mid-Autumn Festival?
Needless to say, one of the places you should be visiting is Chinatown! That is if you are ready to deal with the crowd. As you enter into Chinatown, be greeted by thousands of fancy lanterns decorating the streets, and a Merlion that was made in honour of the Golden Jubilee. More than 300 stores offer mooncakes and laterns at the festive bazaar. Enjoy nightly cultural performances at the Kreta Ayer Square. You can also bring along the mass lantern walk happening on the 27th of September that will be accompanied by many traditional cultural groups such as the dragon dance troupes, with fireworks to end the night off!
While you’re there, indulge in some local food at the newly revamped Chinatown Food Street if you have not been to it!
Garden By The Bay
From the 24th of September to 4th of October, embrace the Mid-Autumn Festival feels as you witness a spectacular lantern display sets with sea palaces, dragon boats, dinosaurs and animals on the sea! Look out for the 50 goat-shaped lanterns that were painted by members of the public in a lantern decorating competition. There are nightly cultural performances as well at the Supertree Grove staged by local music and cultural arts groups such as the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan Dance Theatre, Nam Hwa Opera, Malay dance group Azpirasi, and Indian classical dance group, Apsaras.
Lastly, enjoy over 30 stalls of a wide array of local food choices at the Supertree Grove, offering local favourites such as kueh tutu, muah chee and vadai to new local delights such as fried Oreos (which are really awesome) and kebabs.