Mooncake Festival - Malaysia
This festival falls on the 8th moon, 15th day of the Chinese Lunar Calendar around the time of the Autumn Equinox. In the Western calendar, this festival normally falls between the 2nd week of September and the 2nd week of October.
The Mooncake Festival or Lantern Festival or Mid-Autumn Festival, call it what you will - is a celebration of unity. This festival is believed to have originated from the ancient ceremony of Sacrificing to the Moon Goddess for the year's end harvest. This is when families return to celebrate and give thanks for the year's bounty. Offerings of their harvest such as apples, pears, peaches, grapes, pomegranates, melons, oranges and pomelos were common. Other offerings cooked, baked etc included moon cakes, cooked taro, and water caltrope, a type of water chestnut resembling black buffalo horns. And of course, 'tang yuen' made from glutinous rice. 'Yuen' means 'round' which symbolize "completeness" as in "yuen man" of the cycle. Thus, it means unity and harmony within the family.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is a traditional festivity for both the Han and minority nationalities. The custom of worshipping the moon can be traced back as far as the Xia and Shang Dynasties (2000B.C.-1066B.C.). In the Zhou Dynasty(1066B.C.-221B.C.), villagers held ceremonies in preparation for the arrival of winter and to celebrate the beauty of the new moon. In the later dynasties, mooncakes were baked and sent to relatives as gifts of family reunion.Traditionally, thirteen moon cakes were stacked into a pyramid to symbolise the thirteen moons of a "complete year," that is, twelve moons plus one intercalary moon.
Today, the Mooncake festival to many signifies not much really ...perhaps a chance to savour these extremely sweet cakes and to send them to relatives,families, bosses, customers, friends etc as gifts of unity. Shame that we no longer understand the core of these festivals... getting lost in translation most times and other times it's no longer a belief and then tradition ends. And like durians... mooncakes can be bought all year round now..
The Mooncake Story
During the Yuan dynasty (A.D. 1280-1368) China was ruled by the Mongolians. Rebel leaders unhappy with the overlords, plotted to overthrow the government. As the Mid-Autumn Festival drew near, the rebels ordered cakes baked and distributed to the villages. Messages of the outline of the attack were baked into the cakes.
On the night of the Festival, the rebels with the help of local villagers, successfully overthrew the government and later established the Ming dynasty (1368-1644 A.D.). Hence from then on, the Mooncake Festival is celebrated on a large scale.