Happy Thanksgiving! Have a Mooncake?

This weekend marks the celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival. You can read a lot of background on the event at www.chinavoc.com, which gets into a lot of history and legend as well as talking about moon cakes, the food most associated with the festival.

My husband summarizes the holiday much more simply for our kids: Chinese Thanksgiving. This is the harvest festival, usually observed on the 15th day of the 8th (lunar) month, which on our Western calendar normally comes between the 2nd week of September and the 2nd week of October. Harvests have been brought in, and food is plentiful. A month beforehand, mooncakes start appearing at the Asian markets and bakeries.

Mooncakes are sometimes compared to fruitcake, but as fruitcake is not always thought of kindly, I hesitate to make that comparison. Mooncakes are made of a thin layer of pastry surrounding a filling that is made of all manner of sweet pastes – not necessarily things we would consider putting in a pastry (but maybe we ought to): red beans, lotus seeds, dates, peanuts or other nuts, and very often a whole, cooked egg yolk symbolizing the full moon.

Equally important to the feasting is the opportunity to be with family to celebrate – Chinese people don’t flock to their family home for the Moon Festival as they do for the Chinese New Year, but judging by the fact that “all circuits are busy” each year that my husband tries to call his parents in Hunan on this day, they at least reach out by telephone and, if that fails, by email! Unable to get home or reach the family by contemporary means? Never fear – the solution lies in the traditional contemplation of the full moon, knowing that your loved ones are doing the same.

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