One of my favorite things, just as much as I love fruitcake, is the Mooncake. Long before I married my husband who is Filipino-Chinese, I have tasted this Asian delicacy during my travels. Additionally, I got them as gifts in the past and I totally loved them. Now, why is mooncake a very important part of the Mid-Autumn Festival that the Chinese celebrate? Why is it being given as gifts? Let’s find out more about this Chinese seasonal favorite.
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What is a Mooncake and the Mid-Autumn Festival?
The Mooncake is a rich, round pastry that is like a household staple in Chinese homes during the Mid-Autumn Festival (a.ka. Mooncake Festival).
It measures about 4 inches in diameter and 1 ¼ – 1 ½ – inch thick. Meanwhile, the crust is ideally 2-3mm in thickness. Any thicker than that would make the mooncake bland and rather tough to eat.
Each cake is usually filled with a sweet paste, typically made of sweet-bean or lotus-seed. Most of the time, you will find a whole yolk from a salted duck egg in the middle of each mooncake. Nowadays, the ones with the whole yolks are more expensive.
Due to the Chinese influence and how widely spread their people are, the eating of mooncake has been adapted by most Asian cultures, even the Westerners. After all, it is really tasty.
If you look closely, traditional mooncakes have an imprint on the top. These are Chinese characters for “longevity” or “harmony”. They also include the name of the bakery and the filling inside so you will at first glance what you are buying.
Some of the other designs on the imprints you will find are:
- Image of the moon
- Lady Chang’e on the Moon
- Rabbit, which is a symbol of the Moon in Chinese
How to Eat the Mooncake
From the package, a mooncake is sliced into wedges and shared. Since it is an expensive treat, you try to make small slices or wedges and distribute it among family members.
They are usually eaten accompanied by a good cup of hot tea. As you know, the Chinese drink lots of hot tea.
In some rare cases, mooncakes may also be served steamed or fried, like the tikoy. But honestly, I like it as is.
When are Mooncakes Available?
Mooncakes are produced as part of the celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is also known as the Lantern or Mooncake Festival. This annual event is celebrated by the Chinese as well as people from other East Asian countries, like Vietnam.
The festival corresponds to the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar that figures a full moon at night. So this usually happens from mid-September to early October of the Gregorian calendar.
Mid-Autumn Festival 2020 is on
1 October, Thursday.
On this day, the Chinese believe that the moon is at its brightest and appears at its fullest size. Since this coincides with the harvest time in the middle of Autumn, they celebrate the event for lunar appreciation as well as moon watching.
Yes, that is an actual activity because the Chinese believe in the power of the moon. This is also one of the most significant festivals in Chinese culture.
The Chinese are very particular with luck, prosperity, and longevity. So during the Moon Festival, lanterns of all sizes and shapes are lighted, carried, or displayed. These are supposed to light everyone’s way towards prosperity and good luck.
During olden times, the Chinese people gather with family and friends in their villages over a feast. Then slices of mooncakes are distributed among those present. It is an indispensable delicacy on this day.
In present times, boxes of Mooncakes are being raffled off to the attendees of the Mooncake Festival feast. It is considered lucky to win one—especially because these are yummy and also expensive to buy.
What Does the Mooncake Symbolize?
In Chinese culture, the round shape symbolizes completeness and togetherness. So, a full moon symbolizes prosperity as well as the reunion of the whole family.
So the round shape of the mooncake symbolizes togetherness or unity with family. Meanwhile, the whole salted egg yolk in the center of the pastry symbolizes the full moon.
We also give mooncake boxes to family members, relatives, and friends to express our love and best wishes.
In modern times, it has now been customary for businessmen and families to present these to their clients or relatives as tokens. The act itself builds the relationship, which is why there is a great demand for premium mooncakes this season.
Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!
You may not be Chinese nor follow Chinese beliefs. But you cannot deny that mooncakes are so yummy to eat, whether it’s for Mid-Autumn Festival or not.
In the Philippines, one of the famous brands of locally made mooncake is that of Eng Bee Tin. They also have delicious hopia all year-round!
Other Chinese stories
Meanwhile, here are other stories about our Fil-Chi life in the Philippines.
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