Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dancing Moon Cake

Calendar showing September 22 and the 15th of the lunar month

As I am typing, fireworks are going off outside. Today is the Mid-Autumn or Moon Festival. Not surprisingly perhaps, the moon outside is a beautiful full moon -- as most Chinese holidays are based on the lunar calendar. I've actually included a picture of our calendar here, as at first this calendar was a bit confusing to me.

You'll see the red box for September 22 (today), with underneath the 22 a small 十五 (shiwu, or fifteen). So today is the 15th of the 8th lunar month. Faithful blog readers (hi mom!) may remember that Paul and I were actually in Beijing for the Chinese new year's party, back in February. So now we're about 8 1/2 months later and it is time for another celebration.

One big thing people (apparently) do today is eat moon cakes. Funnily enough no-one, not the foreigners, but also not the Chinese people I have asked, seem to particularly care for these moon cakes. Our ayi (the lady who helps in our house, with "help" being the understatement here) says that she doesn't like them, but her eighty-year old dad (in whose house she lives) does. We actually gave the box of moon cakes that Paul got at his work -- kind of like a Christmas gift in other places -- to her family. I would have liked to try a slither, but from what I have heard -- think egg yolk and red bean or lotus paste in a dry, flaky crust -- they are really pretty awful.

First pose of the dancing moon cake

Thomas, however, made moon cakes at school. I bet the teacher had modified the recipe, because Thomas came back home as happy as can be, and then presented and -- before I could take one decent picture -- gobbled down the entire thing. I couldn't get a straight shot, so you are going to have to do it with some images of a dancing, vanishing moon cake.

Today actually reminded me of being in the U.S. for the first time for Thanksgiving. In case you are not from there -- Thanksgiving is HUGE in the U.S., it's a bigger dinner (if possible) than with Christmas. Everyone who can, flies home to their families for a typical Thanksgiving meal with friends and family. Well, of course our first year in the U.S., Paul and I didn't see this coming at all. I think we might have almost gone to the office, but definitely realized far too late that everything was closed that day. And even after we learned -- in years to come -- to anticipate this big event for which everything just comes to a grinding halt, it took us a few years to really appreciate the day in a similar way as the Americans did and start to have meaningful Thanksgiving dinners with close friends of our own.

Second pose of the dancing moon cake

Today feels like that, because I can tell you the story about the Moon Festival, but it won't tell you anything about what this means to the Chinese, and I don't have a clue about that either. According to the legend, a woman named Chang'e is upset after an (obviously) evil person kills her husband to get the magic potion he has. When she then drinks the potion all by herself, she becomes a god. As she rises up in the sky, she realizes she wants to stay close to Earth and then stops and stays at the moon. So that is the legend (read the full story on According to my ayi, this day is spent eating lots of food and presumably eating moon cakes. And according to me, this is a day school was closed and the boys were home.

Third pose of the dancing moon cake

We did have one dancing moon cake though.

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