Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Mid Autumn Festival - Mass Lantern Parade Sunday 15th Sept '13

As mentioned before in Singapore when one festival finishes there's another one just there waiting to start and again September is no exception. I blogged awhile back about the Chinese Hungry ghost festival which ends Sept 4. Could there be anything now I could post about? Of course!!!!!! It's the Chinese mid Autumn festival!! Also known as Mooncake Festival, Moon Festival or Peh Goeh Cheh. In Singapore and Malaysia it is also known as the Lantern festival, however this is a different festival to the Lantern festival celebrated in China on the 15th day of the first lunar month. The festival is celebrated by both the Chinese and Vietnamese and although not in Singapore, it is a Public Holiday in both these countries. Just like Harvest Festival in the UK this festival celebrates the end of harvest.

The actual date of the feast this year falls on Sept 19 which will be the 15th day of the 8 lunar month during a full moon (hence moon festival and the eating of mooncakes) in the Chinese calendar. However, why celebrate one day when you can celebrate for a month!!!  As the name Mooncake Festival suggests it is celebrated by the consumption of mooncakes.

Mooncakes are round sweet pastries about 10cm wide, with various fillings including lotus paste, red bean, nuts or egg yolks. I purchased a packet of mixed nut ones as they can be very sweet. An ok delicacy but am happy to wait until next year for the next, especially as they are around 1000 calories each!!!

To the Chinese moon worship is important as it signifies rejuvenation and it is a good time to marry or find your partner. During this festival, time is spent with the family when traditionally the head of the family will divide and dish out the mooncakes to other family membes. Businessmen will also give them out to clients.

Down in chinatown there is a month long celebration, this year running from Sept 7 to Oct 4. I visited with a friend on the afternoon of the 15th in anticipation of the Mass Lantern walk that evening. I wandered around the stalls beforehand while I waited. At this time of year there are stalls everywhere selling mooncakes and also lanterns for the children to carry. As ever it is full hustle and bustle with vibrant colours everywhere you turn. You will also find a number of stores selling Pomelos (thai grapefruits) a fruit I have yet to get around to experiencing but will do soon I'm sure.

lantern kits
box of moon cakes
mooncake stall

Lanterns decorated by local school children

May be rather tacky and touristy but I love these dragons puppets!

As has become the norm for me I visited the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. This was also stunningly decorated for the Festival, something that I wasn't expecting. An onslaught of colour and light.

At 19:00 the walk started from next to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, masses of parents with children, holding lanterns followed behind four Dragons, amongst them were also dancers and people playing drums. Sadly from our vantage point we could only see things from afar, apparently it was the most people that had ever attending the walk. The parade wound its way through the streets of chinatown until it passed us at the spot where we had moved to, close to the end of the Parade. Sadly I'm not too happy with the photos as they passed by very close and the dragons, at such a speed with their dancing, that I think the photos are poor, but I hope it gives a feel for the colours, noise and atmosphere of the evening.

We didn't stay until the very end as we were by then quite hungry (as you always seem to be in SG with all the great food that's on offer) however there were groups playing drums, choirs and dancers all rounded off with fireworks, which we heard from the restaurant!! An enjoyable time was had although in all honesty it was I think more aimed at the children. Well worth coming to watch if you are in Singapore at this time of year.

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