Similar to Thanksgiving, the Chinese Moon Festival is a family celebration in autumn – and substituting turkey is a sweet pastry called the moon cake. “Mid-autumn festival” would be a more direct translation from its Chinese name, since following the full moon cycle (where its Western name derives meaning), usually lands in the middle of Fall season. This culturally imbedded festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, in order for the festival night to be lit up by a full moon.
Like the annual celebration of this Festival, eating moon cakes during this time are also a tradition for most Chinese households. Moon cakes traditionally consist of lotus bean paste, salted egg yolk, or red bean paste surrounded by a sweet outer covering. Each one is roughly the size of a palm, and is meant to be cut diagonally into quarters or more pieces and passed around to share.
Some more modern moon cakes can be seen below, including more elaborate designs and flavours, and heftier price tags.
Being one of the most celebrated holidays in the Chinese calendar, some other regional or cultural customs include; drinking tea, match making (although a little outdated), solving riddles with family and friends, carrying brightly lit lanterns, and burning incense.
(Left: cut into eight pieces – a traditional lotus paste + salted egg yolk moon cake.
Also to note, the salty egg yolk imbedded in the middle of most cakes (representing a full moon), is an acquired taste.)
The Mid-autumn Festival is all about harvest, health and happiness and is a time to celebrate being with family. While for some of us students at home, on campus, or just in London studying into the brightly lit night, gazing at the universally fully moon is not just a reminder of how beautiful nature is. But rather, for those of us who cannot make it home – it is a memento of how soul-warming family can truly feel.