Tonight is the Mid-Autumn Festival; you might have also heard of it as the Moon Festival. Traditionally it was a harvest festival in which the family would gather and celebrate with a big meal and, mooncakes. Mooncakes were a special sweet treat that people looked forward to once a year and were made in special molds like this:

If you weren’t able to be with your family, comfort was found in knowing that all of you were united by looking at the same moon.

In modern day, it’s still celebrated by spending time with friends and family, eating a meal, and mooncakes. But, as with other holidays around the world, parts have gotten a bit out of control and unrecognizable to generations long gone.

Mooncakes showed up in stores and stands several weeks ago and range from just nice, normal ones to outrageously fancy and ridiculously expensive. Foreign companies like Starbucks and  Häagen-Dazs have also gotten in on the mooncake scene. But in Beijing, how did we know it’s Mid-Autumn Festival time? The way we know any big event is coming: the traffic gets even worse than normal!

About two weeks ago the traffic got decidedly worse as part of celebrating involves sending mooncakes to friends, business acquaintances, and basically anyone you need or want to make a deposit in the “guanxi” (relationship) bank. Mooncakes are kind of like fruitcake, it’s the baked good that many people don’t eat and pass on to someone else.

Here’s a closer look at the bins in my local grocery store, this is actually part of a huge aisle packed full of mooncakes.

 And a close up look at what’s in one of these.

You can also make homemade mooncakes, though I’ll be honest and say that it sounds like a lot of work! Instead, I use my molds to help decorate my apartment.

The last few days the sky in Beijing has been spectacularly blue, reminding the millions of us who live here that this is how it was supposed to be! Tonight, as families gather around China and the world, in a collective act of marking, celebrating, and enjoying the bounty of our labor with those that we love, may we remember this is how it was supposed to be as well.

To my beloved family, I will look at the moon and know it is merely miles that separate us, you are with in spirit (and pictures all over my home!). I love you. (AA) Amy



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  1. Karin P September 30, 2012 at 8:12 pm - Reply

    I’m actually one of the people who *likes* mooncakes — or I did before I became allergic to gluten & wheat flour… I love your mooncake molds! How terrific are those?!

    I also love this holiday from China. It’s so romantic (in the sort-of most non-romantic sense of the word, lol — you know, like how romantic things are poetic and lovely and have an air of romance around them and are not necessarily about lovers, but about love).

    Speaking of poetry, it just would not be right to not have this cited somewhere here:

    Before my bed
    There is bright-lit moonlight
    So that it seems
    Like frost on the ground:

    Lifting my head
    I watch the bright moon
    Lowering my head
    I dream that I’m home.

    ~ Li Bo

    I love hearing it recited in Chinese, too — the only poem I sort of know in Chinese, along with bajillions of other people, too, ha! It is one of the, if not THE, most recited poems, huh.

    Please enjoy a mooncake on my behalf and know that as it is only 6:10 am and still dark out, the full moon hanging above the Rockies, I have looked at it and thought of you. :)

    Take care, Amy.

    • Avatar photo
      Amy September 30, 2012 at 9:11 pm - Reply

      We actually had a wonderfully clear moon this evening! And like you, I like mooncakes :)

  2. nancy petrie September 30, 2012 at 11:03 pm - Reply

    I have never tasted mooncakes but the moulds look amazing. Having just been involved in our local primary school harvest festival I was urging the children to think of the word Harvest – therein lies another few words which point us to the meaning of this time. The word EARTH – what we have in resources is amazing, our supermarkets are also full of food from across the world. Given this then the next word is truly appaling – STARVE, why when there is enough food to feed twice the number of people in the world are people still starving? SHARE : If we all took time to consider those less fortunate and shared just a little of what we have WOW! Lastly the word HEART : How do we encourage people to share and support care agencies – of course it has to come from the heart. Giving thanks for the abundance of resources to meet our physical needs and the joy of friends to lift us up and encourage us. xx

  3. David Rupert October 2, 2012 at 2:42 am - Reply

    What a great reflection.This weekend, I spent the full moon listening to the elk bugle. You remember that sound Amy? It never leaves your soul…

  4. Jeff Goins October 3, 2012 at 8:33 pm - Reply

    A thoughtful reflection. Thanks for sharing, Amy. For some reason, it made me think of this line of children’s books:

    • Avatar photo
      Amy October 3, 2012 at 8:53 pm - Reply

      Thanks Jeff, I love children’s books and will have to check it out!

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