Good morning! ☀️
It’s Sunday, again. Before we know where we are it will be January.. absolute madness. This morning I was up at 07:30 thanks to the Guangzhou Marathon. The start line was over at the stadium, which we can see from our apartment, and they were playing such loud music, honking horns, a man was yelling into a microphone etc etc so Hannah didn’t get to have a lay in.. but that’s OK! It was quite fun sitting on the kitchen worktop, half asleep, watching waves of people starting their run 🏃🏼🏃🏻♀️.
Christmas is finally in full swing over in China 🎄. I was getting a little impatient as the decorations weren’t going up in malls until the last week of November but hey, that’s when Christmas decorations SHOULD go up right?? I’m just used to seeing things around by the beginning of October because the UK is crazy.
Speaking of festivities, I have been working on this blog post forever and I’m finally getting around to posting it. Life hasn’t been particularly crazy, I just always seem to be doing something else (like watching rubbish on Youtube.. it sucks you in). News Years resolution = manage my “free” time better!
So here we go.. I’m a good few weeks too late (ahem, this was back at the start of October) but keep on reading if you want to find out how the Chinese celebrate their holidays.
Mid-Autumn Festival. Have you heard of it before? I definitely hadn’t until we moved here, but it’s the second largest annual celebration in China after Chinese New Year, so it’s quite a big deal. Also known as Moon Festival this holiday falls on the 15th day of the 8th month each year according to the lunar calendar. It takes its name from the fact that at this time of year the moon is at its roundest and brightest and that celebrations are held in the middle of the Autumn season.
Like all holidays celebrated worldwide, Mid-Autumn Festival is a time for families to get together and partake in traditional and meaningful activities, such as sharing food with relatives, hanging lanterns and, traditionally, worshipping the moon.
The history of this festival dates back over 3,000 years to the Zhou Dynasty (1046 – 256BC) where a sacrifice was given as thanks to the moon and to celebrate the harvest. During this time it was more commonly celebrated by the royal class until later dynasties when social prosperity inspired the custom of appreciating the moon among common people. By the Northern Song Dynasty (960 – 1127AD) Mid-Autumn Festival had become a widely celebrated folk festival.
Among the foods eaten during this time of year, Moon Cake is the most special. In my opinion, it’s more of a pastry than a cake but I’ve read that people say it resembles Western fruit cakes in taste and consistency (which I wouldn’t know, as I never eat it – yuck). These delicacies come in various flavours according to the region and are usually round, symbolizing the moon and reunion of a family. In recent times people gift Moon Cakes to friends & relatives to wish them a long and happy life.
Some popular flavours include lotus paste (sweet but not TOO sweet and a little bit nutty), lotus paste with salted egg yolk (you guessed it, this one tastes a little salty) and mixed nuts/seeds with roast pork (I personally haven’t tried this one but I’ve been told it’s the most traditional flavour). In an attempt to appeal to all generations mooncakes are also now found with fruit fillings such as pureed pineapple or peach, chocolate, green tea and even ice cream – of course that last one must be served frozen for obvious reasons!
When discussing Mid Autumn festival traditions with our colleagues they told me that it was always somewhat of a battle with their siblings to ensure they took the piece of mooncake with the biggest portion of salted egg yolk in the middle. The cakes are usually quartered (you definitely couldn’t eat more than that in one sitting, they’re very dense) so they would each fight to get the best bit. This reminded me of the English tradition involving a Christmas pudding and a sixpence, with everyone hoping to get the piece containing the old coin!
Unlike Christmas, it’s not common to exchange wrapped gifts with one another at this time of year. Instead, families and friends may give gifts of food. Here are a few examples I found online:
• Fresh Hairy Crab – As Autumn is the best season for this seafood, regarded as a delicacy, it’s a popular choice when it comes to gifts.
• Tea – Often served to guests and a staple of every day life in China, a cup of tea can be enjoyed alongside a mooncake to ease the taste of fillings that may be too sweet,
• Fruit Basket – A healthy gift offering is always welcome, especially as mooncakes can be quite calorific. It’s common to give only seasonable fruits such as grapes, grapefruits and pomegranates. Pears are especially meaningful as it’s believed eating them during the festival means family won’t be apart.
• Organic rice & oil – These are also staple ingredients of every day life for the Chinese and would always be well received. Since people are seeking healthier lifestyles it’s ideal to give organic ingredients.
Which flavour of mooncake do you think sounds the nicest?! If you want to know more about this festival feel free to drop me a message, I can definitely find out the answers for you – one of the perks of working with local Chinese people, I’m learning SO much about their culture.
I hope your Christmas preparation & traditions are well under way by now. Is there anything special you like to do to get you in the Christmas mood?? Our tree is finally up and my gingerbread scented candle is burning as I type this.. it’s the most wonderful time of the year ❤️.