Updated: Oct 22, 2021
Family get-togethers, mooncakes and lantern walks
Mooncakes, lanterns, and full moon are the words popping in my mind when I think about the Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节), shares NMSG committee member Feng.
It is the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, the middle of autumn. It varies from September to October in the Gregorian calendar but always falls on the brightest full moon day. Originally, sacrifices were offered to the moon to thank God for the autumn harvest. Every holiday or festival has its story, magical legends, or background. The stories and legends of the Mid-Autumn Festival are pretty interesting. You may read some of the most widespread stories about the origin of the Mid-Autumn Festival at https://www.chinahighlights.com/festivals/mid-autumn-festival-story.htm. However, gradually it has been replaced by family gatherings or celebrations among friends to eat mooncakes while admiring the moon or participate in activities like making paper lanterns or guessing lantern riddles. As the full moon symbolises reunion, it's the day when many Chinese expatriates like me miss home a lot. As the famous Chinese poem goes "raising my head, I see the moon so bright; withdrawing my eyes, my nostalgia comes around." (举头 望明月，低头思故乡). MUST TRY MOONCAKES: Although covid restricted physical reunion with my family last year, my search for some home feeling in Singapore got satisfied with mooncakes and lantern shows. With their round shape, mooncakes are also a symbol of reunion like the moon. It doesn't matter if you are fond of traditional flavours like lotus seed paste with yolk or feel more adventurous to try out snow skin ones with durian. You cannot go wrong with Ding Bakery or Chop Tai Chong Kok for their award-winning or old central names with hand-made skins and natural ingredients. This year, there are some interesting new flavours like basil & trigona honey from Grand Hyatt that you shouldn't miss. Are you worried about calories? Go for low sugar pandan with melon seeds from Marmalade Pantry or Pan Pacific.
MESMERISING LANTERN WALKS: Besides the yummy mooncakes with many flavours, China Town and Gardens by the Bay are worth visiting for lantern shows. After sunset and when the lanterns are lit, it's heart-warming to walk amongst the colourful lanterns that theme family gatherings, the Moon Goddess (Chang Er, 嫦娥) with rabbits, and modern topics like cartoons. If you or your little one yearns to participate beyond the lantern walk-through, buy a lantern for your kid to carry and let them enjoy the festive feeling. Traditionally, lanterns were made from paper with wax candles, but there are also plastic versions with batteries nowadays. Besides Chinatown, most small grocery stores in HDB blocks or big supermarkets sell these lanterns.
Another NMSG committee member, Sabrina, shares her fond experiences in the last 2 years in Singapore. "One of the loveliest Chinese festivals, the Mid-Autumn Festival in Singapore celebrates the end of the autumn harvest with family gatherings, lanterns, and mooncakes. Moon-viewing parties and lantern-walking are popular ways to enjoy the Mid-Autumn Festival. A walk through Chinatown's beautiful large lanterns on display is mesmerising. In addition, lots of fun animal-shaped lanterns and decorations are up for sale in the markets. But, of course, the Lantern Festival is not complete for the foodies without savouring the tasty moon-cakes, which come in various shapes, colours, and flavors. The signature mooncake for the Singaporean community is the Durian-filled cake."
"Last year, my family enjoyed the Gardens by the Bay's Mid-Autumn Festival. We were super impressed by the 30-meters-in-diameter Giant Revolving Lantern that was wrapped around a big tree. It's the first lantern to offer an immersive experience where you can walk through the lantern set to follow the story of Chang Er(Moon Goddess) and Hou Yi (Archer) unfolding on the panels; in addition to lots of illuminated lanterns along Dragonfly Lake. We also had terrific treats at the famous Food Street, Satay by the Bay. We hope to do this again this year. We look forward to it already."
Contributed by NMSG committee members, Feng Maier and Sabrina