Mooncakes and the Mid-Autumn Festival

The earliest record of the Mid-autumn Festival is from the Shang Dynasty, more than 3,000 years ago! The roots of this fall holiday are in Chinese folklore, specifically the story of the two lovers Hou Yi and Chang’e. Now that sounds romantic! And what can be more romantic than celebrating while a large moon is shining bright in the sky?

Although the Mid-autumn Festival is associated with China, it is also an important day in other Asian countries such as Vietnam and Korea. Usually, workers get a day off for the holiday, which is traditionally on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. It’s a quiet holiday–fireworks are not as widespread as during Chinese New Year. 

China is a large country, so people in different regions celebrate the festival in different ways. Some regions may have louder and more colorful festivities. Other regions have subtler displays. Decorating the streets and buildings with beautifully lit lanterns is a common way to celebrate during this time. 

One of the most recognizable mainstays of the Mid-autumn Festival is the mooncake. This dense pastry is filled with a variety of ingredients, most commonly lotus-seed paste and salted egg yolks. Other mooncakes can be filled with pineapple, durian, nuts, or red bean paste, and can be formed into square or round shapes. 

These intricately designed goodies are not like Western desserts. They aren’t as sweet, but are quite rich and filling. They might make a good portable meal–each pastry seems to contain all the food groups and at least half of the daily calories allotted for one person! It’s important to know where to go to get your mooncakes. This may be the deciding factor on whether you take a liking to them! 

Even though the ingredients are few and simple, the process of making mooncakes is time-consuming and labor-intensive. Expect to pay a pretty penny for them. A box of four high-quality mooncakes will cost you in the neighborhood of $20 USD. You will want them individually packaged so that you know they have stayed fresh during transit.

Mooncakes can be shipped, so you can buy them online or send them as a gift. It is always a nice gesture to give mooncakes to a friend or family member during this time, especially if they celebrate the holiday. When giving mooncakes as a gift, opt for the traditional lotus seed and egg yolk filling. 

Of course, you can always try your hand at making them in the kitchen! It’s fairly easy to get the ingredients, especially if you live near a Chinese grocery store. To make the beautiful decoration on the top, you only need a mold, which can be bought online. Allow at least two days to prepare your mooncakes. As long as you follow a good recipe step by step, you can produce your own lovely lunar pastries.