Monday, September 5, 2011

It's Time for Moon-Gazing Party

Waiting for the fullest and brightest moon on
the Mid Autumn Festival.

In a week's time (12 Sep 2011), we will be celebrating the Mid Autumn Festival (中秋节).

According to the lunar calendar, this festival falls on the 15th day of the eighth month every year. It is not known when it began but some historians believe that it has its origin from a few thousands years ago. In those days, life evolved largely around agricultural activities. During the mid autumn, farmers would celebrate good harvests under the full moon in the eight month.

In the early days, the Chinese would worship the moon during the Mid Autumn Festival. Later, the tradition evolved to a more leisurely moon-gazing, wine-sipping and poem-reciting celebration. Many Chinese poems from the Tang and Song Dynasties include poetic appreciation of the moon.

Mid Autumn, a festival for moon-gazing,
wine-sipping and poem-reciting.

When is the moon at its brightest?

The moon is said to be the fullest and the brightest during the mid autumn and there is even an ancient Chinese saying for it (月到中秋分外明). However, some may disagree and say that the brightest moon is found during the Winter Solstice (冬至).

In fact, in the last Winter Solstice (21 Dec 2010), we experienced a rare occurrence where the Winter Solstice coincided with lunar eclipse. On that day, the moon was said to be big, round and red, nothing we have seen since 1378.

Meteorologically, the moon is not necessarily the brightest during the Mid Autumn Festival. Earlier this year, we have just seen a Supermoon on 19 Mar 2011. On that day, the moon was said to be the nearest to the Earth in 18 years, making it the brightest, biggest and perhaps, the most threatening. Yes, threatening...

Is there any connection between natural
disasters and the moon?
Should the moon be blamed for disasters?

Just a week before the Supermoon Day, Japan experienced one of the most powerful earthquake in history (11 Mar 2011). The quake has brought about the most monstrous tsunami that sent shock waves globally. Half a year later, Japan is still licking its wound inflicted by the nightmarish natural disaster.

Some people have speculated that the supermoon is responsible for natural disasters such as earthquakes. However, scientists have thought otherwise saying that there has been no evidence so far.

Is there a bunny up on the moon? [Pic]

What's up on the moon?

The moon must have ignited much imagination since time immemorial. According to folklore, Chang'e (嫦娥), the goddess of the Moon, lived up there with the Jade Rabbit. During full moon, take a good look at the moon and you might just spot the shape of the bunny in the dark shadows on the Moon.

Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, was there to check out on 20 Jul 1968. Ask him and he will tell you he saw no rabbit on that remarkable day.

The festival, today

In these modern days, we celebrate the Mid Autumn Festival contemporarily. In Singapore, the day is not one of the Public Holidays. Notwithstanding that, it would be difficult not to know that the festival is around the corner.

The businessmen would be at their top form, trying to lure you to buy their ever-most-creative mooncakes. They would stop at nothing to make their products eye-catching and attractive. This has drawn some criticism on ''unnecessary and wasteful mooncake packaging'.

Mooncake is the traditional sweet cookies during
the Mid Autumn Festival.

The Mid Autumn Festival is also known as the 'Lantern Festival'. Decorations would feature lanterns in elaborate designs. The little ones are certainly more keen to carry their lanterns around the neighborhood than to taste some of the most exotic mooncakes. In nearby Malaysia, it has been reported that the Angry Birds lanterns are flying out of the stores fast.

Traditionally, Mid Autumn Festival celebration is preceded with presentation of mooncake as gifts to friends and relatives. However, in the eyes of the Chinese tax authorities, these are not ordinary gifts. Since 1994, employees who receive such gifts from their employers are to pay a 'mooncake tax' as part of their personal income tax for the benefits they enjoy. Needless to say, such a move has left a bitter taste in the mouths of the Chinese taxpayers. (See more Weird Tax Stories)

If you are in Singapore, you may want to check out Mid-Autumn Festival Street Light-Up, Street Bazaar, Mass Lantern Walk, Nightly Stage Shows in Chinatown or Lantern Festival at Chinese Garden.

There are hungry people elsewhere.
Go easy on food wastage.

Spare a thought during the festive time

In "Where's The Bunny?" I wrote in 2008, I noted that "Everybody seems to be rushing to buy for everybody. The net result of this whole hullabaloo is the handsome profit netted by the merchants and loads of unconsumed mooncakes being transferred from those gleaming boxes to the least glamorous trash bins."

I doubt that things are any different this year. While you are in the mood to indulge in the sweet cookies, spare some thoughts for the hungry people in some other parts of the world. Go easy on food wastage!

Happy moon-gazing l!!

"In our daily lives, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but the gratefulness that makes us happy." ~Albert Clarke~

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