Saturday, 24 September 2011

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Celebrating Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival (Also called Moon Cake Festival)


More pictures here:
Materials:
1. Lanterns
2. Moon cakes
3. Chinese Tea

This year, we celebrated the Chinese Mid-Autumn with J for the first time. It brought back many fond memories of my childhood carrying those lanterns, and I am very glad to introduce it to J. We celebrated with some Chinese friends. After dinner, we lighted the lanterns and walked around the courtyard, as we did when we were children on top of a hill. J walked around the courtyard carrying his lanterns several rounds with the other children and towards the end, alone for 2 rounds.

The Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Mooncake Festival, takes place on the eve of the first full moon during the 8th month on the lunar calendar. A major part of the festivities centre on admiration of the moon, which at this time of year is usually round and yellow, like a giant egg yolk. Eating moon cakes with their pastry skin filled with sweet lotus paste and a round salted duck’s egg yolk, which resemble the moon is a must during this time. Families often cut the mooncake into wedges, and share its rich sweet flavour as they admire the moon and drink tea.

In China, Singapore and Taiwan and all parts of the world where the Chinese celebrate this festival, parents will light colourful paper lanterns in the shape of animals such for children to carry them on the end of a stick after dinner and walk around the courtyard.

Folklore behind the festival:

According to http://www.china.org.cn/english/features/Festivals/78311.htm, folklore about the origin of the festival go like this: In remote antiquity, there were ten suns rising in the sky, which scorched all crops and drove people into dire poverty. A hero named Hou Yi ascended to the top of the Kunlun Mountain, drew his extraordinary bow and shot down the nine superfluous suns one after another. He also ordered the last sun to rise and set according to time. For this reason, he was respected and loved by the people. A person named Peng Meng lurked in them.

Hou Yi had a beautiful wife named Chang'er. Empress Wangmu presented to him a parcel of elixir, by taking which, it was said, one would ascend immediately to heaven and become a celestial being. Hou Yi, however, hated to part with his wife. So he gave the elixir to Chang'er for safe-keeping. Chang'er hid the parcel in a treasure box at her dressing table when, but was unexpectedly seen by Peng Meng.

One day when Hou Yi led his disciples to go hunting, Peng Meng, sword in hand, rushed into the inner chamber and forced Chang'er to hand over the elixir. Aware that she was unable to defeat Peng Meng, Chang'er made a prompt decision at that critical moment. She turned round to open her treasure box, took the elixir and swallowed it. As soon as she swallowed the elixir her body floated off the ground, dashed out of the window and flew towards heaven.

When Hou Yi returned home at dark and learned from the maidservants what had happened, he was overcome with grief. Hou Yi looked up into the night sky and called out the name of his beloved wife when, to his surprise, he found that the moon was especially clear and bight and on it there was a swaying shadow that was exactly like his wife. He tried his best to chase after the moon. But as he ran, the moon retreated; as he withdrew, the moon came back. He could not get to the moon at all.

Thinking of his wife day and night, Hou Yi then had an incense table arranged in the back garden that Chang'er loved. Putting on the table sweetmeats and fresh fruits Chang'er enjoyed most, Hou Yi held at a distance a memorial ceremony for Chang'er who was sentimentally attached to him in the palace of the moon.

When people heard of the story that Chang'er had turned into a celestial being, they arranged the incense table in the moonlight one after another and prayed kindhearted Chang'er for good fortune and peace. From then on the custom of worshiping the moon spread among the people.

Youtube videos:

Songs:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNynB2LbpTE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4w2yN-3qDQ

Story in Mandarin:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyZAWq5Qnxc
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vC6uJM5yWdQ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LmigiGzzKw

Story in English

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXczHYZcRvo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otU5Wjb0A7Q&list=PL666FC2FE89E7E57C&index=2




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