An Origin Story: Mooncake Festival

Ever wondered how the Mooncake Festival came about?

The Mooncake Festival, also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival, is a significant cultural event celebrated by various communities, particularly the Chinese, Vietnamese, and other East Asian communities. The festival falls on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, which usually corresponds to September or October. 

Signifying a time of gathering, thanksgiving, and cultural exchange, the Mooncake Festival can be traced back over 3,000 years to the Shang Dynasty in China. The festival has deep cultural and historical roots, often associated with bountiful harvest celebrations, family reunions, and the folklore of Chang'e, the Moon Goddess

According to folklore, a skilled archer Houyi heroically saves the scorching earth by shooting down nine of the ten suns and receives an immortality potion as a reward. When a villain tries to steal the potion, Houyi's wife Chang'e swallows it and ascends to the moon, where she remains as a symbol of eternal love and beauty. Heartbroken, Houyi sets out an altar of Chang'e's favourite foods in remembrance of her, which is observed by millions today during the Mooncake Festival when the moon shines brightest. 

At the heart of the Mooncake Festival are the mooncakes, a central element of the festival. These round pastries, typically filled with sweet or savoury fillings, signify completeness and unity, reflecting the importance of family reunions during the festival. The mooncakes are often adorned with intricate designs, including depictions of the moon, flowers, and other symbols of prosperity.

Mooncakes come in various flavours and fillings, ranging from traditional lotus seed paste, five grain, yam, pandan and salted egg yolk to modern interpretations and snow-skin or jelly varieties, filled with chocolate, green tea, and fruits. In recent years, mooncakes have evolved with the emergence of innovative flavours and fusions that cater to diverse tastes, such as vegan mooncakes, low-sugar options, and unique cross-cultural blends. Mooncakes are often savoured with Chinese tea and exchanged as gifts among friends, family, and colleagues during the festival. 

In the multicultural tapestry of Australia, the Mooncake Festival has become an opportunity for different communities to showcase their heritage and engage in cross-cultural exchanges. Cities like Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane come alive with vibrant celebrations that include traditional music and dance performances, lantern parades, mooncake-making workshops, arts and crafts exhibitions and storytelling sessions about the festival's origins.

The history of the Mooncake Festival is a testament to the enduring power of tradition and the remarkable ability of cultures to adapt and thrive in new environments. As the moon shines brightly, the celebration of the Mooncake Festival serves as a reminder that no matter where we are, the values of gratitude, togetherness, and cultural pride continue to bind us all. 

So, as the moon rises in the night sky, let us savour some fragrant mooncakes, reflect on the rich history of the festival and the joy it brings to those who celebrate it in Australia and around the world.

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