moon day (september 12, 2011)

Just as most kids seem to be going back to school, our boys are having their first vacation.  After a month of classes, they get a four-day break to celebrate Mid Autumn Festival. It is a harvest festival, a bit of a  Chinese Thanksgiving.

Traditionally families got together to eat pomelos (a giant citrus fruit which tastes like a mild grapefruit) and moon cakes while admiring the full moon.

There is a lot of Chinese folklore about the moon and this holiday.  Chang’e is the goddess of immortality who lives on the moon.  Mythology has it she found an immortality pill, which had been given to her husband as a reward for services to the emperor. They were each to swallow half the pill but she took the whole thing and was banished to the moon as punishment.  Her husband built a castle on the sun and was allowed to visit her once a year and that is why the moon shines brightest on this day.

This holiday also plays an important role in an urban myth from the days when the Mongols ruled China. (1280 – 1368). They did not allow the Chinese to gather in large groups in fear of them organizing protests and rebelling (ironic?)  The Mongols did not eat moon cakes, as they were a typical Chinese treat. One of the Chinese leaders received permission to distribute hundreds of moon cakes to the Chinese residents as a blessing for the long life of the Emperor.  In each moon cake he hid a message plotting a coup of the Mongols.  On the night of the harvest moon, the Chinese rose up, over threw the Yuan Dynasty and started the Ming Dynasty.  Moon cakes have been part of the celebration ever since.

We had hoped to go away but John’s travel schedule was so uncertain that we decided to stay put and play tourists in our own town.  With much kicking and screaming we dragged the boys to the Capital Museum.  I am delighted to report they really enjoyed it, except for the Van Gogh exhibit.  We had been looking forward to this highly publicized show, which has travelled all the way from Amsterdam (as marked in huge letters on the poster).  Well, huge disappointment… there was one teeny tiny Van Gogh self-portrait amidst 30 incredibly mediocre works by other artists who either met, were influenced by or active at the same time as poor Vincent. The queue to see his little painting was huge and moved at a snails pace…. It seems once someone finally got to the painting they had to examine each and every brush stroke. They also had to take a picture, completely ignoring all the “no photos allowed” signs. We rolled our eyes, giggled a bit and decided to plan a trip to Holland instead of waiting.

The boys have since abandoned us to hang with their friends. John and I climbed the drum tower (photo attached) and decided to celebrate our personal favorite harvest… the grape! We went for a fantastic romantic dinner in the Houhai and enjoyed a great bottle of wine.

Happy Moon Day!

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