Eclipsed by the formidable Chinese New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival (Zung Cau Zit) largely goes unnoticed in the UK, silently slipping by western consciousness. I have vague recollections as a child of going to my local Chinese/Asian community centre to celebrate, lighting lanterns and eating moon-cake. Nowadays, the only time I know it’s Mid-Autumn Festival is by the appearance of a box of moon-cakes on the kitchen table. Similarly in Hong Kong, the deluge of advertisements showcasing the new, exciting types of mooncake notify me ‘tis the season. Embarrassingly enough, if you asked me last week, I wouldn’t be able to explain the story behind the celebrations (disgraceful really).
Now, let me attempt to redeem myself and share my recently acquired knowledge of the origin story behind this national holiday. *Ahem* In ancient times there were 10 suns (global warming ain’t got nothing on this), making life quite terrible for the people of earth. Cue the hero Hou Yi, who shot down all but one sun and made life bearable again, yay! Impressed by his actions, the immortal Wangmu gave him an elixir granting immortality. Not wanting to leave his wife Chang’e, Hou Yi gave the potion to her for safekeeping. However, knowledge of this potion was soon discovered by one of his apprentices (!!), who attempted to obtain it for himself. Knowing she would be overpowered, Chang’e drank the potion, becoming immortal and choosing the moon as residence to be near her husband. Upon hearing his wife’s fate, Hou Yi took her favourite fruit and food to be offered as sacrifice, which was in turn adopted by the people who heard this tragic tale.
Cut to modern times and Mid-Autumn celebrations are in abundance in Hong Kong, with lantern displays at Victoria Park or TST. Moon-cakes, starfruit and persimmons were generously provided by one of my teachers in class – getting the biggest piece of egg yolk in your slice of moon-cake signals good fortune for you! An attempt to view the festivities in Causeway Bay on Saturday was thwarted by a sudden downpour of rain (shakes fist at sky). Luckily, nicer weather was to be had on Sunday, where we saw a lovely display at TST and later headed down to Repulse Bay – perfect for a more chilled out celebration away from the crowds.