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Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class- Holidays in Hong Kong Series at CantoneseClass101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind holidays and observances in Hong Kong. I’m Eric, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 3- Mid-Autumn Festival, or 中秋節 in Cantonese.
Mid-Autumn Festival is held on August 15th of the lunar calendar, and is the closest full moon day to the Autumnal Equinox.
Full moon, or 月圓, symbolizes reunion in Chinese culture, so families gather together and admire the full moon while eating mooncake, which is 月餅 in Cantonese.
Now, before we get into more detail, I've got a question for you-
What kind of animal lives on the moon in Chinese mythology?
If you don't already know, you’ll find out a bit later, so keep listening!
Have you ever tried mooncake, or 月餅? Traditional mooncakes are round like the moon, but the shape has diversified in recent years for commercial purposes. Other than the traditional mooncake, which is lotus seed paste with egg yolk filling, other new flavor variants are also becoming more popular in Hong Kong. Abalone, swallow's nest, barbecued pork, and sesame are some examples of popular alternative flavors.
Here’s one more that you must try - the snow-skin mooncake, or in Cantonese, 冰皮月餅. It’s a new style of mooncake, and is unique from other mooncakes in that it’s not baked. It has what is referred to as ‘ice skin,’ so shops keep them frozen until served. The snow-skin mooncake crust is made of glutinous rice, or 糯米 in Cantonese, and its filling can be a variety of things, including bean paste, jam, chocolate, and cheesecake.
In Hong Kong, the Mid-Autumn Festival is followed by a public holiday, so that everyone can make the most of the Mid-Autumn evening celebrations.
On this evening, children carry lanterns, or 燈籠, in the shape of their favorite cartoon characters, and teenagers play with candles. In the past, young people played with burning wax, but this is no longer the case. The government issued a ban on burning wax in 2003, because of the high number of fire-related disasters and injuries, as well as the problematic amounts of leftover melted wax left in public areas as the result of this custom.
Another Mid-Autumn Festival observance is the fire dragon dance, or 舞火龍. This custom involves a dragon made of thousands of sticks of incense dancing on the streets of Tai Hang in Causeway Bay for three consecutive nights. This dance is believed to bring good luck and ward off monsters. In 2011, the fire dragon dance activity was listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Now let's talk about the origins of the Mid-Autumn Festival. According to myth, there was a time when there were ten suns, which overheated the mortal world. To remedy this, the Jade Emperor, or 玉皇大帝, sent an archer and his wife to the mortal world. The archer shot down the extra nine suns and relieved the suffering of the people, so the Queen of Heaven gave him two immortal elixirs. On August 15th, while the archer was out, his apprentice forced his wife to surrender the elixir. She accidentally swallowed the elixir and floated to the moon, where she lives eternally.
Now it's time to answer our quiz question-
What kind of animal lives on the moon in Chinese mythology?
According to Chinese mythology, it is a rabbit that lives on the moon. In Cantonese, this rabbit is called Moon Rabbit, or 月兔. This comes from the fact that some people believe the highlights and shadows of the moon’s surface look like the image of a rabbit.
How was this lesson? Did you learn anything interesting?
Do people celebrate the full moon in any way in your country?
Leave us a comment at CantoneseClass101.com.
We'll see you next time!