Sunday, September 17, 2006

Mooncake Festival

Twice every year, I come home to see mountains of food that I will never eat. One is during the Chinese New Year, where I will see mounds and mounts of tikoy in red boxes, which we give away to family and friends. The other event is the Mooncake Festival, wherein there will be boxes of mooncake inside the house.

Mooncake is this round Chinese pastry with usually an egg in the center, although that's not always the case. Sometimes it can be just plain mongo. I don't know how it's evolved in China or in Taiwan, but here in the Philippines, what gets passed around is the traditional mooncake. You can read more about it at wikipedia.

A quick google search tells me that the Mooncake is known by many names, such as the Mid-Autumn Festival and Lantern Festival. To me and to the Filipino-Chinese residents here, it will simply be called Mooncake Festival. Again, research will tell me there are various stories about the Mooncake Festival, including its mythological roots, but there has only been one story that was told to us in my Chinese school and by family. When Mongols ruled over the Chinese, the latter were subjugated and arms were banned. In order to rebel, the revolters baked mooncake, and at the center of the mooncake was a message mentioning the date of the rebellion (think of it as a better concealed fortune cookie). Obviously, the Mongols did not eat mooncake, and so everyone was informed when to start the uprising, and suffice to say, the rebellion was a success. The Chinese have been observing the Mooncake Festival ever since.

Of course another practice we Chinese have is playing a game of dice. Everyone invited gathers around a table (usually round) and there is a bowl with six six-sided dice in it. Each one takes turns rolling the set of dice. Depending on the result, the person might get a prize. If you're wondering why Chinese dice have the number four colored red, that's because that's the number you need to roll to get a prize (it's much like the number 7 in craps). A roll of at least one four will net you a prize. The higher prizes requires you to roll two, three, four, or even five fours. We're not just dependent on fours though. If you could roll something like a one, two, three, four, five, six, there's also a prize if I remember correctly. This cycle goes on and on until all the prizes are claimed, although the first prize gets passed around depending on who has the bette result.

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