Monday, September 08, 2014

Mid-Autumn Festival 2014

a variety of moon cakes I purchased at 7/11

Another year in China, another Mid-Autumn Festival. For those who live(d) in China, perhaps it needs no introduction, which is good because I actually know relatively little about this holiday. It usually falls in September and it reminds me a bit of Thanksgiving in the US as it revolves almost entirely around eating food with your family. But while Thanksgiving is marked by pumpkin pie, no Mid-Autumn Festival is complete without moon cakes. 

moon cake set
(photo by emmachen via Photobucket)

Chinese people exchange these tiny little cakes, often in beautifully packaged sets, as shown above. They can also be bought individually at any supermarket or cake shop. Every place seems to market and sell their own unique cakes. The first photo shows a variety of moon cakes I picked up at a 7/11 in Beijing. These cakes break from tradition a bit. The animal-shaped ones, which I got for Ping, are particularly special as they are to be eaten cold and are filled with fun flavors like blueberry and kiwi. Traditional moon cakes are round, the outside made of a golden crust and the inside filled with a paste such as red bean or lotus. The majority of moon cakes I've tried have been sweet, though sometimes the inside contains an egg. Initially, I wasn't particularly impressed by moon cakes, but they have grown on me. I like the five nut flavor, which I was told by one of my students is viewed as old-fashioned and only something old people like; I guess I'm not very hip with my moon cake preferences.

one of Uncle Zhang's sons with William
Unfortunately, Ming had to work today. I did get to celebrate the holiday, however, with my mother-in-law's boyfriend, Uncle Zhang, and his family. We had lunch together at Uncle Zhang's house, where my mother-in-law also lives. The food was pretty simple, but included a variety of home cooked dishes (made by Uncle Zhang and my m-i-l) and included foods such as sausage, quail eggs, stir fried green beans with pork, stir fried mushrooms and bok choy, and cold cucumber with tofu. The adults drank either baijiu or beer. The kids had kumquat (somewhat similar to orange) juice. We all took turns toasting each other as Chinese people do when they enjoy a large meal. At the end of the meal, those who weren't yet stuffed, filled themselves up with rice. I still find this practice strange as I can never find room for rice unless it is eaten with the dishes of food! 

Ping and Uncle Zhang's grandkids being silly

Honestly, Chinese holidays are sometimes hard for me. Though it has gotten easier over time, I struggle with understanding the traditions and in the past I didn't much enjoy the food. It can also stir up feelings of homesickness and make me long for American holidays. I will miss Thanksgiving in the US this year, but I am trying to make the most of the festivities in China. Before long, we will be leaving and will be missing things like moon cakes and baijiu toasts.

What about you? Have you experienced cultural holidays different from your own? What did you like or dislike about them?

some of the dishes we ate

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