We didn't look back and here a year has passed in the lunar calendar. 13 days ago we had the first autumn new moon and in just 2 days ... "Full harvest moon" will come.
Precisely on the night of the first full moon in autumn, which is also known as the "full harvest", is the Mid Autumn Festival, the second most important festival in Asia.
According to a centuries-old tradition, the festival time is set to the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar, according to which this day falls on average between mid-September and mid-October in the Gregorian calendar.
It is September 21, during the first full moon in autumn, that the Autumn Festival will culminate this year.
Time to start preparing for the Mid Autumn Festival.
This is a special time. The rainy season is slowly coming to an end and the dry season is coming. In the Buddhist calendar, it's time to apologize. For everyone and for everything. It is also a time to thank you for the rich harvest of rice. Yes, for peace of mind. And by the way, it's time for family gatherings and gift-giving moon cakes.
While waiting for the full moon, listen to the legends and myths associated with this beautiful holiday.
We will also deal with the most important element of the Autumn Festival - moon cakes.
Let's start with the genesis of the Asian Harvest Festival.
China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore are the main places of celebration.
Nevertheless, this holiday is celebrated practically throughout Asia. Laos, India, the Philippines and Indonesia also celebrate the first full moon of autumn.
Although different countries have slightly different rituals, they all center around three main pillars.
The first pillar is family gathering. Whole families come together to celebrate a good harvest, consistently strengthen family ties and tell stories by the full moon.
The second pillar of this holiday is thanks. For a rich harvest, for harmony in the family, for a happy living next year in good health.
Expressing hope for a prosperous future is included in the third pillar of the holiday, which is prayers, burning incense and praying to the gods for support, beauty, offspring and long life. In short, a bright future.
Imagine that the first records of this fall festival date back to the 16th century BC. The form in which Asia now celebrates this festival was shaped between the 6th and 9th centuries AD.
The fact is that family and consent have always been at the heart of this festival.
After all, this is the time when Asia was preparing for the coming winter in the northern and central parts, and for the dry season in the south of the continent.
As you probably already know, rice is the staple food in Asia. The cultivation of this grain requires an enormous amount of water. The approaching dry season usually caused problems to feed the public, as the rivers and streams used to irrigate the rice fields lacked water.
It takes two weeks to wait for the first full moon in autumn. It was during the new moon that the preparations began. The streets are getting colorful, there are seasonal stands selling "Moon Cakes", in parks and in squares you can see training "dragon teams", i.e. children and teenagers preparing for processions and dragon and lion dance shows.
Lanterns and moon cakes dominate the shopping list.
The fact is, each region of Asia celebrates in its own way. In many countries, such as Malaysia or Singapore, it is a day off. Also in China, on the mainland and on the islands, preparations are in full swing. In countries such as Laos, Myanmar or Cambodia, games and activities similar to those from Polish weddings are very popular.
This holiday is also an occasion to give each other the so-called "happy money" or "lucky money". The closest ones give each other red envelopes containing banknotes. According to customary legend, this is supposed to bring good luck and prosperity in the difficult time ahead.
Many legends and myths have arisen around this holiday. Many of the traditions I will tell you about are related to the genesis of the Mid Autumn Festival.
The first records of the festival date back to the sixteenth century BC. and in these oldest records it is said of a dragon that drew rains over the rice fields. In connection with this event, the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar was established as a holiday.
The first original records of the name as Mid Autumn Festival appeared around the tenth century BC. They were approved by the then reigning Zhou dynasty and remain to this day in the Taoist tradition and Chinese folk beliefs.
This holiday was officially introduced into the calendar during the reign of the Song dynasty in the years 960-1127. Since then, this holiday has been celebrated regularly and is subject to legal protection.
Another interesting legend is passed down from generation to generation by the inhabitants of the southern provinces of China. According to her, the moon and the sun are married and the stars are their children.
According to this legend, every month when the moon is pregnant it becomes round, and when it turns into a thin croissant, another child is born - the star. This is one of the sources of the habit of praying to the moon by women and men for procreation.
In East Asia, mainly in China and Chinese-speaking countries such as Singapore and Malaysia, on this day the most important thing is to meet with the family, celebrate the full moon and listen to stories.
One of the most interesting is the story of Princess Chang`e who went to the moon and became the Immortal Goddess of the Moon.
The story says that in the old days there lived a heroic soldier called Hou Yi who was a master of archery and was married to Chang`e.
One year, at dawn, 10 suns appeared in the sky, bringing drought and huge losses to agriculture. People began to starve.
According to legend, Hou Yi shot 9 out of 10 suns from his bow, leaving only one that provided enough light and warmth to restore agriculture to the proper rhythm and scale.
In return for such generous behavior, Hou Yi was gifted by the gods with the elixir of immortality.
As a good husband, however, he did not want to allow the situation to be immortal while his wife had to die. He decided to give the potion into her hands with the request to watch over and save it for the future. Unfortunately, one of the Master Hou Yi students learned about the incident and one day decided to possess a potion.
It happened on the 15th day, the eighth month of the lunar calendar, when an apprentice broke into the home of the master who was hunting at the time.
After the break-in, he stabbed Hou Yi's wife to force her to hand over the potion vial.
Chang`e defended herself bravely and refused to hand over the vial. However, she was no longer able to resist the student's attacks. Desperate, she decided to drink the potion so that it would not fall into the wrong hands. The drunk elixir made Chang`e immortal. However, she did not want to cause extra worry for her husband and at the same time stay close as long as he was alive. She chose the moon for her abode and from there she helped her husband.
When Hou Yi returned home from hunting and found out about the whole situation, despite his great sadness, he decided to set up a table in the garden and put all the fruits and cakes that his wife liked, and thus show respect and gratitude for his wife's dedication.
Once people understood the meaning of the story, they began building altars for Chang`e, burning scented incense sticks and praying to the moon during the Mid Autumn Festival for happiness and safety for the family.
Hence, today, when you meet in China or Asia, small Buddhist altars with fruit, cakes and drinks, this is the aftermath of this legend.
By definition, the Mid-Autumn Festival is a time of joy and gratitude for the rich harvest.
It is primarily an opportunity to celebrate in the open air, share moon cakes and observe the moon while being in thoughts with your ancestors.
The moon is considered here as a symbol of harmony and reconciliation.
An interesting custom is the ceremony of brewing and drinking tea in small cups. The family goes to the garden where the observation of the vessel begins on the stone table. When the reflection of the rising full moon appears in the bowl, it is time to go home and enjoy the dishes prepared for this occasion.
Another interesting phenomenon is the celebration of this full moon with dozens or even hundreds of lanterns, which additionally illuminate the night during the full moon.
Lanterns are everywhere. They are used to decorate buildings and parks, in which special decorations are built illuminated at night, which makes people willingly visit such places and celebrate.
Today, however, it is difficult to determine what the main purpose of using lanterns is. As you probably know from my previous article, lanterns have their own celebration at the beginning of the Lunar Year.
In the case of the Mid Autumn Festival, it is said that my lanterns simply light the way towards a bright future. Thus, their function is mainly decorative. In some provinces of China, lanterns are used for the local fun of writing mysterious phrases or puns and then asking fellow diners to guess them.
Lanterns have always existed in Asia. Initially, they had a spherical shape. Later on, all sorts of varieties appeared that can be found in virtually any color and in a remarkable variety of shapes. From spherical to prisms or even types of stars similar to the Polish Bethlehem star.
All right. We are "talk talk" here, but maybe it's time to see, meet and eat mooncakes?
Moon cakes are a traditional Chinese delicacy for the Mid-Autumn Festival. Of course, no family holiday can do without sweets, in this case specially baked cookies月餅 - yuebing.
Kneading, producing and sharing moon cakes is a sign of tradition and culture throughout Asia. Their round shape symbolizes completeness and unification.
In many parts of Asia it is a tradition to make moon cakes on a full moon night, a bit like making a carp for Christmas Eve isn't it?
The oldest member of the family divides such cookies into parts and gives them to all household members. This is somewhat reminiscent of the traditions of sharing the Christmas wafer on Christmas Eve.
In modern times, when we don't have much time, moon cakes are bought in pastry shops, shops or street stalls. However, the tradition of donating cookies as a symbol of keeping the family circle healthy and happy remained.
One of the legends has it that during the times when the Mongols occupied the territory of northern China, moon cakes were used as a kind of information carrier. Cards with information hidden inside the filling, they could reach many Chinese people and made it possible to organize an uprising against the Mongols.
In Viet Nam, moon cakes are known as bánh trung thu (literally "mid autumn cake"). Vietnamese moon cakes are usually sold individually or in sets of four. There are two types of moon cake: bánh nướng (baked moon cake) and bánh dẻo (moon cake with sticky rice).
It can be said that 'bánh nướng' and 'bánh dẻo' are two special types of cake in Vietnam. They are very popular and are only sold during the Mid Autumn Festival. Vietnamese moon cakes are often circular (10 cm in diameter) or square (approx. 7-8 cm long) and 4-5 cm thick. Larger sizes are not uncommon. Their appearance largely resembles their Chinese counterparts, although other designs such as piglets, fish, shrimp, etc. can also be found.
Moon cakes have two basic parts: the crust and the filling.
Ingredients typically include jam, dried sausage, mung bean paste, salt, sugar, cooking oil, sugar-coated lard, lotus seeds, watermelon seeds, etc. Compared to other variants, the Vietnamese "moon cake" tastes sweeter. Therefore, to balance it, salted yolk is often added. They can be baked or eaten right away.
"Bánh nướng" (baked cake) is made from wheat flour, cooking oil and a simple syrup cooked with malt. After filling with various combinations of salted yolk, dried sausage, mung bean paste, salt, sugar, cooking oil, salt lard, lotus seeds, watermelon seeds, it will then be baked in the oven. Cookies must be constantly turned in the oven so that they do not burn.
"Bánh dẻo" (sticky rice) is easier to make than 'bánh nướng'. The crust and the filling are pre-cooked. The rind is made of roasted sticky rice flour, pomelo or vanilla flower water and simple syrup. After the rice flour has softened, a filling similar to a baked moon cake is stuffed, and then the dough is put into a mold sprinkled with a thin layer of flour to prevent sticking. Cookies can be eaten almost immediately. But 'bánh dẻo' is not as popular as 'bánh nướng'.
Here are the ingredients:
FOR THE CAKE:
FOR BEAN FILLING:
Easy isn't it?
Now you can enjoy the taste of delicious, albeit a bit heavy in calories, moon cakes. Enjoy your meal!
So far, the moon is already 97% visible. The first autumnal full moon in 2021 is coming.
It's time to dust off the lanterns and make some wishes.
When there is a full moon, every wish comes true!