Despite the my previous entry, I actually am quite fond of Mid-Autumn Festival. There are a variety of reasons but I’ll just explain my top three.
First of all, I chose this day as Little Flower’s birthday. I never have been sure exactly when she was born but it was somewhere around Mid-Autumn Festival. Making it her birthday, complete with her very own mini-moon cake (yue bing) to eat, topped with a candle, and sometimes a party of well-wishers, was meant to be more fun for those coming than for the two of us. I did it to break the monotony of students’ lives here and give them stories to tell their parents back home.
Last year, Jalin and I celebrated LF’s birthday, intending for her to enjoy her one little moon cake by herself while we sampled a whole lot more. As it turned out, we weren’t attentive enough to our moon cake feast piled on the coffee table. When both of us went out to the kitchen to get drinks, we returned to find LF had gotten herself onto the table and eaten our entire sample tray!
That was certainly not on her diet. It took her several days to slim down again to her normal weight.
The second reason I like this festival has to do with last year’s announcement. For the first time, the Chinese government proclaimed Mid-Autumn Festival a national holiday. In other words, we’re not supposed to have school on that day. Last year, at Sichuan University, I also had the day off along with everyone else to celebrate the rising of the moon and the family togetherness of this Chinese traditional day. This year, the new holiday falls on Sunday with universities, high schools and grade school kids having Monday off. A three-day weekend! What a way to celebrate.
That would be us, too, except our school leaders decided they would cancel Sunday classes only but we’d continue with the usual all-day Saturday and Monday lessons. Since there are never classes on Sunday, I really don’t consider that much of a holiday. Those teachers having to teach on Saturday, a regular school day for us, are really quite miffed.
So much for a day off.
And last of all, I enjoy this day because it’s my opportunity to appreciate others in a Chinese way. Since everyone gives me moon cakes, it’s my turn to reciprocate in kind. It’s such fun to cruise the many department stores and see what boxes they have to offer: the prices, the sizes, the many different kinds, and the beautiful wrappings. Selecting just the right box for which school leader is truly an enjoyable task.
This year, I picked up 15 boxes of moon cakes for the English Department heads and the school administrators. On Thursday morning, it was my turn to descend upon them in their offices. I presented my presents, giving my thanks for their care and concern for my well-being over the years. It’s not often a foreigner does this on a Chinese holiday. I love the looks of surprise on people’s faces. Rarely do school leaders receive moon cakes from teachers or others and this just makes my gratitude all the more special.
Then we have others in my daily life here: the 30 English teachers in our department, my neighbors, the swimming pool staff, the shop keepers I often visit, or members in the church.
All along the alleyways and side streets, we have those who pile mini-moon cakes out for purchasing. Choose your many flavors, have them weighed and for a reasonable 10 to 12 yuan a pound ($1.45 – $1.75), you can treat dozens of people for Mid-Autumn Festival.
Yesterday, it was my great pleasure to do this at our English Departmental meeting, the swimming pool, the school’s front gate guards, my neighbors below me and the taxi driver who drove me home with my stash of goodies.
Come Sunday, the same will happen at church which is the official Mid-Autumn Festival day.
Although I teasingly ridicule China’s moon cakes, I have to say over the years they have actually grown quite tasty. Sure, some people don’t care for them but to be honest, quite a few do. New flavors and specialty items have appeared on the moon cake market now. Banana, chocolate pudding, custard, strawberry, pineapple and even ice cream moon cakes have recently been invented for the modern world. Moon cakes from Macau, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore are now found in the Mainland, touting their own distinct flavors, shapes and fillings.
In fact, the lovely box bestowed upon me by the school is from Macau, the moon cakes inside carrying messages such as “Share the Delicacies with your family” and “Famous for its high quality” not to mention the more sentimental note, “On festive occasions, more than ever one thinks of one’s dear ones far away.”
I’ve never had Macau moon cakes before so this should be quite a unique Mid-Autumn Festival gift for me. Little Flower I doubt can differentiate between the cheap stuff and the expensive. Even though it’s her birthday, she’ll get her usual miniature yue bing that’s from the alleyway sellers.
And this year, I’m making sure there are no abundant samples on the coffee table for her to gobble down. During this holiday, there’s going to be only one family member breaking her diet this year. That’ll be me, not the dog.
From Luzhou, here’s sending you an early Mid-autumn Festival greeting topped with our usual “Ping An” (peace)