Saturday, September 19, 2009

Mid-Autumn Festival 中秋节

If we were to list all the festivities of all different ethnic cultures in Singapore, we could be a festival city with practically something going on every day and night! Just imagine, in a short space of time, locals as well as foreign visitors are attracted and possibly distracted (^^) with so much excitement in the pre-Hari Raya Puasa (Ramadan) light-up in Geylang Serai, Deepavali in Little India and Mid-Autumn Festival in Chinatown. We could be breaking fast with friends in Little India or Kg. Glam, have a nice Masala Thosai in Little India and then have a nice bite of the moon-cake with some great Chinese tea in Chinatown!

Tonight, the cool weather added a touch to the light-up of Chinatown to start off the Mid-Autumn Festival. In a tropical city like ours in Singapore, we just have to add that extra imaginary effort to appreciate the cool crisp autumn air better. Unlike the old days when we had to imagine from our textbooks about autumn what it really is, these days, many kids are lucky enough to have gone outside Singapore to experience autumn.

Ask any older person about moon cakes, and chances are what came to mind could be Dai Zhong Kok 大中国 (Da Zhong Guo), Dai Tong  大同 (Da Tong), Nam Tong 南同 (Nan Tong) and more. Long queues could be seen outside Dai Zhong Kok as each patiently wait in the sweltering sun for their turn to buy the moon-cake, with single egg yolk or double egg-yolk. In the old days, one could even catch a glimpse of how the shop people prepare the ling-yong (lotus paste). For us kids the, it was the piggy in the traditional baskets that we looked forward to. For the eligible, it was time to impress on the potential in-laws with a box or two.

These days, moon cakes are big items as corporate gifts as vendors present to their clients. Big hotel names on glittering boxes contain moon cakes are making their round, from Shenton Way to Ayer Rajah. Ah, I miss the innovative canned moon cakes which I used to send to my friends in other other parts of the world, where moon cakes meant different things to them.

Talk about Zhong Qiu Jie 中秋节  (Mid-Autumn Festival), one will think of Chang Er and yes, the rabbit ... and history or legends come alive as grandpa tells a story. These days, well try the wikipedia or google. (^^) It was a time when something nice and delicious has to be had, moon cakes - the typical lotus paste in a soft crust. And there's the pomelo (In the old days, they seemed to only appear during this time. Of course these days, they are around almost all year round. Ipoh Lor-Yau was reputed to be the best), ling-kok (water-caltrop) and Chinese tea. To the southern Chinese, it would have been Ti Kuan Yim (Hokkien for Tie Guan Yin) or Luk Poh/Poh Li (Cantonese). These days, there are such a wide spread of different Chinese tea varieties.

And what happened to the lanterns that each kid would clamour for? Those tied together using bamboo chicks and covered by transparent coloured "glass" papers. In the centre was a small metal spring, into which one would put in a small candle. It was a challenge to keep the lanterns from catching fire. Then came the advent of battery operated lamps and plastic lanterns in the shape of Ultra-man. What would have been beautifully hung along the five-foot-ways outside the shops in Chinatown, they are conspiciously absent. The shops have changed. The children too.

This evening, the thousands who flocked from all over Singapore to Chinatown saw Mid Autumn Festival performance with a fusion between the traditional and the new. It was a performance of the young, who through performance will remember Mid Autumn Festival and their contributions towards keeping this tradition alive. Stories depicted in the modern form. Modern dances added to the gaiety of the event. Cameras of all shapes and sizes, professionals to the phone-cameras, they blocked the views, but many would be happy to bring back a piece of the action. Some would find their way to facebook and youtube. Others would have already been transmitted via MMS through the phones to their relatives and friends. I wonder if any did a 3G video-phone call to share the excitement with their grannies who could be at home. (^^) Next year, maybe, we could put it on or better still another site of our (Singapore) own with the next generation broadband network in place.

From now till the 15th of the 8th Moon, there will be many events in Chinatown.

1 comment:

staceyjwarner said...

Hi, I'm your blog neighbor...I'm the blog just before all your photographs of the festivals. How fun to go to "next blog" and find so much culture.