If you holiday in Malaysia during the Mooncake Festival, you will be privy to a special time dedicated to traditional celebrations of unity.
Also known as the Lantern Festival or Mid-Autumn Festival, it is always celebrated on 15th day of the Chinese Lunar Calendar. This is when the `harvest moon’ is at its brightest and roundest.
The Mooncake Festival is underpinned by three core activities which are closely aligned to each other. The first is providing a time for friends and family to come together, traditionally it was the time to harvest crops. It is also an opportunity to give thanks for a good harvest and harmony. The third fundamental part of the celebrations is the chance for people to pray for anything from good health, longevity, a job, children or material possessions.
Legends and traditions surrounding the festival always herald back to these fundamental elements but they can differ slightly depending on the country, culture and religion.
It is believed that the festival first originated from a time when people would pray and sacrifice to the Moon Goddess in the hope that there would be a bountiful harvest that year. Villages would also hold ceremonies in preparation for the onset of winter.
Over time, the Mooncake Festival evolved to also incorporate a focus on fertility with prayers said for bumper crops, healthy livestock and an increase in human births.
Offerings were given from the family’s harvest and included anything from grapes, pomegranates, apples, oranges and peaches. These were always round fruits to symbolise the shape of the full moon. In addition to fruits, baked items were also presented such as moon cakes, where the name of the festival comes from.
Known as ‘tang (round) yuen (completeness), they are made from sweet glutinous rice and symbolise harmony and unity within the family home. If you looking for what to do in Malaysia around this time, you must indulge in this delicious treat which are normally available and eaten during the month leading up to the festival.
Mooncakes are also known as `reunion cakes’ because family members come together to sample the tasty sweets and unite in celebrations. It is also common to gift them to friends, employees, bosses and customers during this time. For many children, the festival is a special favourite and they can often be seen carrying lanterns of many sizes through the streets.
Historically, thirteen moon cakes were stacked into a pyramid to represent the thirteen moons of a complete year (twelve moons plus one intercalary moon). Imperial cooks would make huge mooncakes over a metre in diameter with intricate designs that included the moon goddess, the moon palace and cassia tree. In contrast, normal mooncakes were just several centimetres in size.
Some people like to commemorate the festival in the traditional way of enjoying mooncakes with their family while sipping tea and gazing at the beautiful moon. It is perceived as the perfect moment if you can catch the moon’s reflection in the centre of your teacup
It is a great time to holiday in Malaysia during the Mooncake Festival as it offers a unique insight into local traditions and customs. It is celebrated all over the country so if you are looking at particular places to visit in Malaysia, look online for local festivities happening in the area for you to attend.
During any festival in Malaysia, it is important to adopt responsible attitudes to travel. This includes showing respect for local cultures during celebrations and at all other times when exploring the country.