This week was the moon festival. It’s one of the major holidays in Taiwan, and it’s a day to spend with your family, perhaps while barbecuing, gazing at the moon, or reading poems about the moon.
This is also a day to give offerings to the moon goddess, Chang’e. There are many stories about her significance, but here is one that I think makes more sense than others I’ve read:
“In the ancient past, there was a hero named Hou Yi who was excellent at shooting. His wife was Chang’e. One year, the ten suns rose in the sky together, causing great disaster to people. Yi shot down nine of the suns and left only one to provide light. He was pronounced king by the thankful people. However, he soon became a conceited and tyrannical ruler. In order to live long without death, he asked for the elixir of life from Xiwangmu. But his wife, Chang’e, stole it on the fifteenth of August because she did not want the cruel king to live long and hurt more people. She took the magic potion to prevent her husband from becoming immortal. Houyi was so angry when discovered that Chang’e took the elixir, he shot at his wife as she flew toward the moon, though he missed. Chang’e fled to the moon and became the spirit of the moon. Houyi died soon because he was overcome with great anger. Thereafter, people offer a sacrifice to Chang’e on every lunar fifteenth of August to commemorate Chang’e’s action.”
Cool, so we’re celebrating that. I have been bombarded by my students with boxes of fancily decorated sweets. One of the most popular for this holiday are moon cakes, which are intricately designed cakes with rich fillings. Even I, as a sweets lover, have to take these a little bit at a time. Some of them even have whole egg yolks baked into the middle.
Another popular and very delicious gift is pineapple cake. It’s got a crumbly pie crust with sweetened, shredded pineapple in the middle.
I think in total, I’ve received over 100 moon cakes and pineapple cakes from my students. And these things aren’t cheap either– some of the Taiwanese teachers were commenting that one of the boxes I received was from a designer moon cake store and had cost over 100 bucks. Yikes! I’d better not waste these.
One thing I found very unique was that, since we had a holiday that fell during the week, we had to work on Saturday to make up for the day off. This wasn’t a school decision, but a country-wide phenomenon. You can definitely say they have a good work ethic. There’s no way that would fly in most other countries.
Anyhow, happy moon festival!