Sunday Lifestyle

Tomorrow is the festival for mooncake & thanksgiving

WILL SOON FLOURISH - Wilson Lee Flores - The Philippine Star

SHANGHAI — Due to a meeting this week with young entrepreneurs from Asia’s equivalent to New York City in this booming international finance, trade and arts hub of Shanghai, it’s a coincidence that both I and a delegation of young Filipino Chinese entrepreneurs from Anvil Business Club will be spending Mid-Autumn Festival or Moon Festival here.

Tomorrow, Sept. 8, is Moon Festival or a night when the full moon is at its fullest, a holiday for eating mooncake, family reunions and playing traditional dice games we members of the local Chinese minority here in the Philippines call pwa tiong chiu. The date changes every year in the Gregorian calendar but takes places on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese lunar calendar.

I wonder how my paternal ancestors in old colonial Manila marked this holiday in the oppressive Spanish era, when members of our ethnic Chinese minority were then legally persecuted and levied the highest taxes by the colonizers, like the Jews of medieval Europe. Thankfully, for all the imperfections of our democracy and even with territorial disputes among Asian countries, the Philippines now is a genuine democracy where we’re equal Filipino citizens regardless of race or creed.

This is also the time when travelers across Asia will witness the diverse magnificence of various mooncakes sold in luxury hotels, bakeshops and restaurants. I can’t forget the “Johnny Moon” restaurant in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte province, which honored the famous 19th century Ilocano painter and hero Juan Luna, I wonder how this establishment is going to mark the full moon tomorrow?

What is it all about, this second most important festival in Chinese tradition next only to the lunar new year, called “Zhong Chiu Jie” in Mandarin and “Tiong Chew Chue” in the Hokkien dialect, also marked by much of Asia, including non-Chinese like the Vietnamese who call it “Tét Trung Thu”?

Ancient harvest festival equivalent to Thanksgiving in the west

Huffington Post Canada reports: “Thanksgiving (in America) may be over a month away, but Chinese people around the world are gearing up to celebrate harvest and family as part of the Mid-Autumn Festival on Sept. 8.

“The second most important festival to Chinese people after the New Year, it is a time in which families meet, have dinner, gaze at the full moon and eat a food known as mooncake… It became a three-day festival under Han Dynasty emperor Wu Di (156 to 87 BC).

“The history of the Mid-Autumn Festival stretches back over 3,000 years to the Shang Dynasty (1600 to 1046 BC), when emperors worshipped the moon in the fall because they thought it would lead to a bountiful harvest.

“Moon worship took the form of sacrifices to the lunar goddess in the succeeding Western Zhou Dynasty (1045 to 770 BC) and the practice has continued since then. Sacrificial items have included mooncakes, plums, grapes, apples and watermelons.

“But mooncake isn’t just sacrificed; families eat it too. It’s a food filled with ingredients such as egg yolk, nuts, lotus seed paste and various kinds of bean paste.”

A festival also celebrating liberation from colonial rule

According to Taiwan’s Taipei Times newspaper: “The tradition of consuming mooncake has been traced back to a revolutionary named Chu Yuan-chang (also spelled “Zhu yuanzhang”) who lived during the Yuan Dynasty (1279 to 1368 BC).

“At that time, Zhu was trying to lead the Han people in an uprising against the Mongols. He and a co-conspirator, Liu po-wen, told people that a plague was upon them and eating mooncake was the only way to stop a disaster. The cakes actually held a message which told the Han people that a revolution would take place on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month.” Zhu yuanzhang was the great peasant revolutionary hero who founded the illustrious Ming Dynasty in the year 1368.

Today, whether here in bustling and cosmopolitan Shanghai or in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Macau, Penang, San Francisco or other places, delightful mooncakes come in beautiful boxes (ironically sometimes costing more than the cake inside), served with tea and shared by kin or friends to mark the festival.

Personally, I remember this Mid-Autumn Festival or the ancient festival of the beautiful full moon as the wedding anniversary of my late parents. This festival is also traditionally “a choice occasion to celebrate marriages.”

Although I’m not religious, this ancient thanksgiving festival of Asia is a good reminder for me to quietly pause under the full moon, to pray and thank God for the bountiful harvest of blessings in our lives. Let us count our blessings and be grateful.

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 Thanks for the feedback! Email [email protected] or follow WilsonLeeFlores on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and http://willsoonflourish.blogspot.com/











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