(PHOTO: SAINT GERMAIN BAKERY)
Around this time every year, Richmond grocery stores and bakeries are filled with towers of small, round cakes in fancy boxes and plastic packaging. This is because we’re approaching the Mid-Autumn Festival, and here to tell us more about the festival and its specialty moon cakes is Tourism Richmond’s local culture expert, Stacey Chyau.
Which cultures celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival?
Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated among people from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Korea and Japan. However, the culture difference also changes the way each country celebrates. For example, not all people celebrate by eating moon cakes. Both Japanese and Korean cultures eat their version of rice cakes instead of moon cakes.
What is the Mid-Autumn Festival?
Here is the Chinese history of the Festival: The Mid-Autumn Festival, celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar (there isn’t a fixed date on the Western calendar, therefore it lands on different dates every year), the day always coincides with a full moon. Ancient Chinese emperors worshipped the sun in the spring and moon in autumn, as they believed that the practice would bring them a plentiful harvest the next year. The practice entailed placing a large table in the middle of the yard under the moon, and they put offerings such as fruits and snacks on the table. The offerings include apples, plums, grapes and incense, but moon cakes and pomelos are essential. The pomelo’s skin is sometimes sliced and opened up into a lotus shape when offered as a sacrifice.
Strawberry cheese moon cake from Saint Germain Bakery. (PHOTO: SAINT GERMAIN BAKERY)
What’s the tradition and connection with moon cakes?
In Chinese culture, roundness symbolizes completeness and togetherness. A full moon symbolizes prosperity and reunion for the whole family. Round moon cakes complement the harvest moon in the night sky at the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Because it’s celebrated at night while gazing at the moon, children started to make lanterns to light up the night sky.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is an occasion for family reunions (just like Thanksgiving for North Americans). When the full moon rises, families get together to watch the full moon, light up lanterns and eat moon cakes. They’re usually eaten in small wedges during the Festival and nowadays people present moon cakes to relatives and friends to demonstrate that they wish them a long and happy life.
What are the tastiest kinds of moon cake?
A typical moon cake is a round-shaped pastry with a thin-crust skin enveloping a sweet, dense filling of paste such as sweet bean, lotus seed, taro or a mixture of nuts and seeds. My favourite kind is a whole salted egg yolk placed in the centre of a moon cake, which also symbolizes the full moon. Moon cakes can also be savoury with fillings such as ham, pork floss, and seafood (abalone and seaweed).
Any places you would recommend to get moon cakes in Richmond?
There are a wide range of beautifully wrapped, packaged moon cakes for sale nearly one month prior to the actual festival day. You can find great selections of moon cakes in local Asian supermarkets and bakeries. Some Chinese restaurants also make their own.
Here are a few recommendations:
Kam Do Bakery – 6211 No. 3 Rd., Richmond
Kirin Restaurant – 7900 Westminster Hwy, Richmond
Kuo Hua – 4551 No 3 Rd. #120, Richmond
La Patisserie – 6360 No 3 Rd., Richmond
Maple Castella Bakery – 8700 McKim Way, Richmond
Maxim’s Bakery – 6060 Minoru Blvd., Richmond
Neptune Seafood Restaurant – 8171 Ackroyd Rd #110, Richmond
Pine House Bread and Cake Shop – 4380 No 3 Rd., Richmond
Saint Germain Bakery – Aberdeen Centre · 4151 Hazelbridge Way, Richmond
T&T Supermarket/Osaka Supermarket – 3700 No. 3 Rd., #1000
Where to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival
The Richmond Chinese Community Society is putting on a Mid-Autumn Festival Celebration Sept. 27 at Lansdowne Centre mall (5300 No. 3 Rd., Richmond). Admission is free and it goes from 12:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. More details here.