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The whole of the moon (September 03, 2003)


VietNamNet - Among the bevvy of Vietnamese festivities, the Mid-Autumn Festival is undoubtedly one of the most popular. The festival is the celebration of harvest, with its enthralling activities conducted ‘neath the Harvest Moon.

Moon cakes taste best when shared by family members or loved ones (Photo Nguyen Vu).
Thousands of years of agricultural civilisation have brought the harvest to the heart of Vietnamese life. After long periods of hard labour, knee deep in the fields, there is no better way to celebrate the harvest than a festival.

There is also no better time to hold the festival than under the Full Moon of August, when the moon is at its greatest distance from the earth, and thus it’s fullest and most luminous.

Why the Moon? Why does nothing else bring such rapture, to be loved, to be praised and to be paid tribute from generation to generation?

This everlasting companion of the Earth has been man’s gentle friend of since the dawn of cultivation. It is a trustworthy weather forecaster for farmers, the beautiful fairy of children, the splendid Eden of dreams and the eternal inspiration of poets. And above all, the fullness of the August Moon imbibes Asian people’s desire for the fullness of life.

Under the autumn moon, glows the character of reunion. It is a time for families to gather together, friendships to be made and renewed, and it is also a romantic time for couples. A thread runs through generations of poetry, telling tales of long-lasting lovers finding their way back to each other’s arms on this special night.

In Chinese tales, it is said that there is a beautiful goddess who dwells on the moon. The dark shadow on the moon, that's her palace. Unfortunately, she is the only person who lives there, with a white rabbit. So, when people think about the moon, they feel her loneliness, her cold sadness. Yet it creates a yearning for the warmth of home, where the hearth and heart is.

The moon hangs as a symbol of love. Even though lovers can be separated by thousands of miles, they share the same moon, as though together, a promise that their love will never end.

Like many other festivities in Vietnam, the Mid-Autumn Festival is characterised by special foods rich with the scent and colour of the changing seasons. Wandering along the streets of Hanoi, you’ll have the chance to taste com, a food unique to Vietnam, made from young sticky rice, and to imbibe the fragrance of the autumn harvest.

But the most distinctive food of the Harvest festival is unquestionably the delicious Moon cake.

The moon cake is traditionally made in the shape of a full moon, symbolising union and perfection, is usually stuffed with a variety of fillings such as bean paste, egg yolk, lotus seeds, dates, pineapple, walnuts, almonds, and sesame. In China, the first King of Ming instigated a rebellion against the Mongol rulers, having concealed a call to arms in moon cakes, leading to the downfall of the Yuan dynasty.

As legend has it, on the 15th night of the 8th lunar moon, children can catch a glimpse of the Moon Goddess. Children, who make a wish to her, will find their dreams come true. The princess of the Moon is said to represent the "Yin" in the Yin-Yang philosophy. The moon is the "Yin" and the sun is the "Yang".

Moon cakes go best with green tea.
It’s no coincidence then that there are two types of moon cakes: one is baked a golden yellow, while the other, called “snow skin” is not. Snow skin moon cakes are a confectionery made from glutinous rice. Wheat-flour moon cakes are moulded into various shapes such as fish and dragons, animals with auspicious meanings.

Moon cakes come in a variety of shapes and fillings. The most common fillings are sugar, melon seed, preserved beef, ground lotus and sesame seeds, dates, salted duck egg yolk, and sweet red bean paste. Some have two salted duck eggs for extra good fortune. When cut, the yoke is said to resemble the full moon.

Most Vietnamese consume moon cakes given to them by relatives, friends or employers. Moon cakes go best with green tea.

Have a nice holiday, and remember moon cakes taste best when shared by family members or loved ones.

Reprinted from VietNamNet

     

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