Mooncakes herald the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival

By Bo Leung | | Updated: 2017-09-28 23:10

It's almost the time of year when many people of Chinese origin will be tucking into mooncakes and preparing for family gatherings.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is traditionally celebrated during the 15th day of the eighth month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar. This year it falls on Oct 4.

The festival gives thanks for the upcoming harvest, for prayers and is also the occasion where family and friends gather for dinners.

Many consider the festival to be the second most-important event in the Chinese calendar, after the Lunar New Year.

The festival has been celebrated by Chinese communities since the Shang Dynasty (c. 16th century - 11th century BC).

For many Chinese the moon symbolizes prosperity, peace and reunion and it wouldn't be Mid-Autumn Festival without mooncakes - a type of pastry with different fillings - which are often given as gifts.

Mooncakes are believed to have originated from Yuan dynasty (1271–1368) revolutionaries, who are said to have used the pastries to pass secret messages between each other.

They are commonly filled with lotus seed paste with an egg yolk in the middle. Others contain ingredients such as sesame seed or red bean paste.

Over the years these treats, which are also known for their high calorie and fat content, have changed to suit modern taste buds, with ice cream mochi-style cakes and chocolate molten lava mooncakes.

Some bakeries in Hong Kong have created unusual combinations to give their cakes a contemporary twist, such as truffle and egg mooncakes mixed into white lotus seed paste. Other creations include lychee, jasmine, earl grey flavored egg custard mooncakes.

Another essential feature of the three-day celebrations is lanterns - either decorative or hand-held. Other traditions include lantern carnivals and fire dragon dances, while thousands of moon-gazers gather in parks across China for a chance to see the moon at its brightest.

In London, the China Exchange is hosting festival events.

Festivities begin with a performance by singers from the East-West Gala Chorus.

It will feature specially-written arrangements by British composer and violinist, Sarah Hudson, and Chinese composer and pianist, Samuel Louis.

There will also be family-oriented events taking place around London's Chinatown.

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