It’s here again. The Moon-cake/Harvest/Mid-autumn/Lantern festival. There’s your collection of descriptions for this lunar month’s specialty. We, who’ve been handed this traditional practice from our previous generations, often wonder what to do with this variety of names for it. Never mind, we say. Let’s just enjoy it. Let’s join the procession it there’s one around the neighborhood.
So you’d ask, “What’s a hand-painted basket got to do with a lantern festival?”
When I was a kid, we didn’t have much good food or delicacies to go around. Whatever special treats we had was when special offerings were made to the Deities during festivities. I remember one eighth month when we had mooncakes. They tasted so good, I wanted more. Mother had kept them in a beautiful basket hung from a hook attached to a beam in the roof. I’d look up longingly at the basket and begged mother to take down those cakes and give me some. But mother said they’re finished. It was just an empty basket. I wasn’t convinced and insisted she take down the basket and show me. In the end she relented, took down the basket and opened it. After I‘d seen for myself that it was really empty, I stopped whining.
Now, whenever I look at the basket, I remember how great mooncakes tasted back then. But these days, mooncakes cost a bomb, especially those designer pieces that are specially made for some people to present as special gifts to their parents or in-laws. And they’re not really that appealing to me anymore.
No doubt these festivals are now commercial issues, but practices must change with the times and reality. Since the Americans have shown proof that they’d planted the Star Spangled Banner up there many years ago, most people have stopped worshipping the Moon Goddess. But the lanterns, sweet cakes, pomelos and groundnuts still remain in the cycle of supply and demand.
Nothing dies harder than fun, food, music, dancing and festivities. But traditional beliefs must be reviewed and revised according to the conditions presented in their beautifully painted containers.