Whether you’re somewhere in Asia or happen to walk through any Chinatown around the world these days, you will notice beautiful lanterns of all colors popping up around stores. Along with rich decorations come elaborately designed boxes in many shapes and sizes, filled with little square packages, containing the topic of today’s post: Mooncakes.
Mid-Autumn Festival is just around the corner. If you haven’t heard of this holiday before, think Thanksgiving with even more food, more family and a whole lot more traditions.
Let’s take a brief look at the festival first. This harvest celebration traditionally falls on the 15thday of the 8thmonth of the lunar calendar, which in the old days, was used across China. The main night of the festival, this year on 13 September 2019, must be a full moon night. The celebration has been around since ca. 1600BC and took really off under Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907CE) who started to hold elaborate celebrations to thank and pray for good harvests. The festival is not exclusively to China, but it is celebrated by Chinese all around the world and other countries such as Japan (Tsukimi) or India (Sharad Purnima) have their own versions of the harvest celebration.
There are three key ideas to celebrate this holiday, which remain relevant still today. It’s about coming together as a family, gathering with loved ones. Together, the family will give thanks for a successful harvest and harmony within the family. Lastly, people often visit temples during the festival to pray for babies, health or fortune.
Now that you got the basics on Mid-Autumn Festival, let’s focus on of the festivals most key ‘ingredient’: Mooncakes.
More than just delicious and sinful, we have gathered some facts about mooncakes, most have never heard about:
8. What do these cakes have to do with the moon?
Folk tales tell that the first time cakes were offered was by a Turpan merchant to the Tang Emperor Taizong. Upon looking at the round shaped cakes, the emperor pointed at the moon and invited the moon to share the cakes with him (don’t forget that he was the son of heaven). He then enjoyed the cakes with his ministers and the gifted cakes became widely known as mooncakes.
7. Why are mooncakes round?
The reason is not so that they fit better in your mouth (well not only). In Chinese culture, round shapes symbolize completeness and reunion. As explained earlier, this festival is about coming together as a family and celebrating the bound, so what could be better than sharing round mooncakes with each other.
6. What does the imprint on the cakes mean?
With countless varieties of mooncakes available nowadays, there are different inscriptions, but the ones most widely used are the Chinese characters for ‘longevity’ or ‘harmony’. Usually, each bakery would add their name and, conveniently, the filling of the particular mooncake as well.
5. Are mooncakes just for eating?
During the Yuan dynasty (1280-1368CE) China was ruled by Mongols. According to legend, rebellious Han Chinese families used mooncakes to send secret messages in order to plan a rebellion against the Mongol rulers on Mid-Autumn day. The Mongols imposed that only 1 out of 10 Han Chinese households could own knives, so the rebels spread the word to gather as many weapons as possible through secret messages hidden within mooncakes.
4. Have you heard of the mooncake tax?
Probably you haven’t! In the past, 18 countries, including Germany, France, Russia and Mexica have been banning mooncakes over taxation disputes as they were considering to introduce a special tax for them. This caused a huge stir and the idea was mostly abandoned. Even within China, the spending of companies on mooncakes causes controversy when it comes to tax, as many companies purchase humongous amounts and write them off them as gifts.
3. How sinful are mooncakes?
A little cake, can’t be that bad right? Mind you! For those of you who are conscious about what they eat, a standard mooncake contains about 1000 calories (no wonder they are so delicious), that roughly equals the calories of two big macs.
2. Have you tried ‘Finger lickin good’ mooncakes?
Just this year, KFC launched a Hong Kong exclusive concept KFC store in Causeway Bay. Their menu features KFC’s take on the mooncake, a version filled with spicy chicken and nuts. Sounds peculiar? We hear it’s not bad, so if you happen to be in Hong Kong, give it a try! They come as part of their special ‘moonlight bucket’. A perfect opportunity for the adventurous.
1. Do I have to eat them all?
God forbid, you might end up at the hospital or at least a few pounds heavier after the holidays. Mooncakes are a popular re-gifting item so go ahead and pass them on. After all this holiday is about sharing with your loved ones.
Whether you like mooncakes or not, now you got all the trivia to impress your family and peers at the holiday gathering.
If you’re looking for a last minute meaningful gift that will last longer than any mooncake and will 100% not be regifted, to celebrate we're offering a flash sale of 15% off the White Marble Collection until Sunday, enter Mooncake at checkout.
Happy Mid-Autumn festival to you from all of us at MYKU!