This week is the Moon Festival, or Mid-Autumn Festival. China and various Asian countries celebrate, including chinatowns in western cities. Today I went to Chinatown in London to get one (or two) mooncakes.
The Moon Festival is the second most important holiday in China after the new year or Spring festival.
This year, the Mid-Autumn festival falls on the 4th October, but events and celebrations started last weekend.
What is the Moon Festival?
The Moon Festival is a very ancient Chinese tradition. It was an occasion to celebrate for the harvest and worship the moon. The Festival takes place on the full moon of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, which usually falls between September and October.
Since ancient times, the Moon Festival is an occasion for families to spend time together, a bit like Christmas in Western countries.
The Mooncake is the traditional Chinese pastry that families eat together during the Mid-Autumn Festival. The mooncake is a round shaped pastry that resembles the moon. The circular shape also represents the unity of the family and it is believed to bring good luck.
The mooncake is usually around 5cm to 10cm and you can find it in various flavours, although different regions have their own traditional mooncake.
[Source: Kelly, China Highlights]
The mooncake has inside a full egg yolk, which also resembles the moon. I once had a Chinese colleague who told me that the mooncake is meant to be shared. You would cut the cake into slices, and the person who gets the slice with the full egg yolk will be lucky.
The Moon Festival in London
Chinatown in London was busier than usual with many bakeries and supermarkets selling mooncakes in various sizes, colours, and even fancy gift boxes. On the streets there were activities for children, including lantern decoration and calligraphy courses. We saw also various political manifestations and charity fundraising activities.
For me, the best part of the trip was wandering around in the many Chinese bakeries. I liked looking at the pastries they offer, so different from the rest of London! In the end I decided to try a bubble waffle with matcha gelato and nutella. But it’s probably more of a trendy fad rather than Chinese tradition!