This coming Sunday finally marks the long awaited Mid-Autumn Festival. Perhaps you have already been enjoying yourself with the best mooncakes in Singapore over the last few weeks. Due to the vast popularity of mooncakes, the festival is nowadays often simply referred to as Mooncake Festival. Traditionally celebrating the end of the autumn harvest, the festival originated in China during the Shang Dynasty.
Today, most people love mooncakes and their different versions. However, there are a few facts that are lesser known about the Mid-Autumn Festival and its delicious treats. Here are 5 facts about the event that you probably didn’t know.
Mooncakes have been a substantial part of the festival for a long time. Commonly consumed, the small cakes were part of a big coup. According to folklore and old stories, the mooncakes were used to smuggle and distribute secret letters and messages during the Yuan dynasty. The Mongolian rule, who hated mooncakes, was infiltrated by Ming revolutionaries using mooncakes with secrets in them. The Mongol rule was subsequently overthrown and the Yuan dynasty came to an end being replaced by the Ming dynasty. How big of a part the mooncakes played in this historical change is unfortunately not known. If you, like the Mongolians, don’t like mooncakes, they you should consider these alternatives.
2. The (naughty) Vietnamese Version
The tradition of the festival is said to have been started by the Hakka people, worshiping mountain gods after completing the harvest. This eventually turned into several versions of myth surrounding moon gods. While the Chinese versions of these gods involve immortality pills and jade rabbits, the Vietnamese version speaks of a female moon god with a rather naughty husband. The man was called Cuoi and banished to the moon for peeing on a sacred banyan tree.
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3. No Full Moon
Traditionally the Mid-Autumn Festival marks not only the end of the autumn harvest, but is also supposed to occur during full moon. However, contrary to popular believe the Mooncake Festival doesn’t always fall on that exact day (or moon). The date of the festival is always the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. Although there isn’t always a full moon, there will be one within two days of the festival.
4. Offerings for Rats
While some traditions involve offerings to ancestors and gods, ancient silk-makers had other concerns. During the moon cake festival period they would prepare a special pot of rice porridge and offer it to rats. The silk-makers were for obvious reasons concerned about their precious silkworms. As rats would often eat them, silk-makers started to offer the dish to secure their livelihood and stop the rats from eating the worms.
5. Mooncake Ban
What harm could there be? It is a fact though that a total of 33 countries had banned mooncakes from being imported from China in 2011. Among those who banned the little humble pies were Russia, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and several others. The reasons for the ban were severe safety and food hygiene concerns in China. After lovers of mooncakes protested around the world, a proposed mooncake tax caused an even bigger controversy.