A glorious festival of lanterns, moon cakes and glutinous rice balls…
The annual Mid-Autumn or Mooncake Festival falls on the 15th day of the eighth moon in the Chinese Lunar Calendar, and is widely celebrated by Chinese communities all over the world to signify the end of mid-Autumn harvest season. As it is commonly associated with paper lanterns, it is also known as the Lantern (“Tang Lung”) Festival. This year, Malaysian Chinese communities celebrate the festival on October 4th with family reunions, moon cakes and lantern parades. Mooncakes are generally gifted to friends and relatives to foster closer ties.
Paper lanterns are the event highlights of a major Chinese festivity such as Mid-Autumn Festival
This festival is believed to have originated from the ancient ceremony of ‘Sacrifice to the Moon Goddess’ for the year’s end harvest – thus the “moon cake” festival from which it is derived. This is when families return home to celebrate and give thanks for the year’s bounty. Abundant offerings such as apples, pears, peaches, grapes, pomegranates, melons, oranges and pomelos are quite common in many Chinese families and households. Other offerings include a variety of mooncakes (i.e. red-bean and yam), cooked taro, and black water chestnuts. Not forgetting, of course, the “tang yuan” or sticky glutinous rice balls that come in a vivid array of bright rainbow colours that resemble edible marbles. Children simply love ‘em!
On the 15th night when the moon shines the brightest, generous offerings of mooncakes, fried chicken, roasted piglet, barbecued pork, yam cakes, watermelon seeds and herbal teas are offered to deities and ancestors on the praying altar. Lighted lanterns are also portrayed in front of homes. Holy prayers are then offered with the customary burning of red candles, incensed sticks, and scented joss-paper. After the prayers, there is more feasting and merry-making as children carry paper lanterns of all shapes & sizes to parade them around neighbourhoods. They are sometimes joined by their non-Chinese friends in celebrating the annual lantern festivities. Major Chinese temples throughout most cities also organize lantern processions as well as flotillas to mark this auspicious annual occasion.
This henceforth completes the cycle of unity and harmony within the family or the household. Customary mooncakes are also baked and sent to relatives as a token of family bonding and reunion. Typically, thirteen moon cakes are stacked to form a pyramid symbolizing the thirteen moons within the lunar calendar, marking the end of the traditional Chinese harvest. These days, mooncake festivals pretty much signify a more casual celebration of sweet offerings and social camaraderie. Just another typical example of true celebration of unity among all Malaysians!