The Mid Autumn, or Moon, Festival, is a time for celebration, reflection, and of course, consumption of symbolic or auspicious foods.
As with other holidays, like Chinese (or Lunar) New Year, food plays a key role in many Chinese festivals and celebrations. Traditional and auspicious dishes may be served and/or given as gifts during Md-Autumn (or Moon) Festival.
History of Mid Autumn, or Moon, Festival in Taiwan
The moon is an integral part of Chinese culture, from its appearance in poetry and stories, to being the basis for the Chinese Lunar Calendar. The moon’s patterns dictate important tasks like farming and harvests, and when important holidays, like Chinese New Year, fall. The moon is said to symbolize harmony and union, while representing celebrations and the closeness of loved ones.
For the Moon, or Mid-Autumn Festival, Chinese believe the moon is its brightest and fullest on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month. As Taiwan was historically a strong agricultural region, many associate this moon with the end of harvest — a time to celebrate all the hard work in the fields. It is not uncommon to hear it referred to as Harvest Day in Taiwan as well.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the three most important celebrations in Taiwan, next to Dragon Boat and Chinese New Year. As with Dragon Boat and Chinese New Year, you will find special foods available for the Moon Festival.
National BBQ Day in Taiwan
According to Amy Liu, author of Taiwan A to Z, BBQs on Moon Festival have become quite popular in Taiwan, although she is not entirely sure where that tradition started. During Mid-Autumn Festival, it is not uncommon to see people having barbecues all throughout town — even on busy commercial streets! This is a way for people to share food with employees of convenience stores and other places that do not have the holiday off.
Pomelos are one of the foods most associated with Moon Festival. Native to Southeast Asia, the pomelo is a citrus fruit that tastes similar to a mild grapefruit, which is why it is sometimes referred to as a Chinese grapefruit. Its Chinese name is similar to the character for “you”, which is translated into a prayer for protection and blessing during the next year.
Moon cakes are without a doubt the food most associated with the Moon Festival. These rich and fancy pastries are stuffed with a variety of ingredients and often sold in highly adorned boxes to give as gifts. Traditional moon cake fillings include red bean and salted egg yolk. You can also find them with a variety of other fillings as well — lotus seeds and nuts are among the most common.
Much like the zongzi dumplings served during the Dragon Boat Festival, moon cakes are not very nutritious and eating too many is regarded as being bad for one’s health. To counter this, bakeries have been looking for ways to make them less fattening. Today, look for creative fillings like tea flavors or different fruits.
For those traveling within parts of Asia a month or so before Moon Festival, it is quite common to see many restaurants, hotels, and bakeries advertising their moon cake gift sets. It has been tradition to send these moon cake gift boxes to friends, business colleagues, vendors, and more, to thank them for their support during the year. While the competition to produce the best moon cakes is high, many companies have gone to giving employees more healthy alternatives or even gift certificates in some cases.
Much like visiting during Chinese New Year or Dragon Boat Festival holidays, Taiwan displays a festive side during this important holiday. If you are hoping to plan your travels around a Mid-Autumn festival, upcoming dates are: