September 26, 2010

Reflections on the Moon

This week was marked by two holidays; Mid-Autumn Festival and Sukkoth. The first came upon us almost too quickly to celebrate, the latter was passed in a small ceremony at Beth Elohim in Charleston.

When my husband and I lived in China, Mid-Autumn Festival was a major holiday, celebrated with gatherings, dragon boat races (although we never witnessed those) and by eating the sumptuously delectable moon cakes. The moon cakes are a pastry about the diameter of a grapefruit. They are generally filled with a sweetened bean paste and stamped with a design on the top. There were variations of these in China depending upon which bakery in which city made them. I heard that the Shanghai moon cakes were filled with coconut with an egg yolk in the center to symbolize the moon.

Unfortunately there were no moon cakes to be had here in Orangeburg, South Carolina but I did celebrate one of the traditions by making a moon painting. My painting of the blue cat and the orange moon above is not exactly conventional for it depicts the moon that lingers at dawn rather than the full harvest moon seen at night which the Chinese celebrate. But I suppose that Orangeburg requires an orange moon.

Mid-Autumn Festival is a time to reflect upon home - but not the home of a present residence but the “old home” of one’s origins. This could mean the place of one’s birth or the place where one’s ancestors came from. It has been interesting that Mid-Autumn Festival coincided with Sukkoth this year - for both are in many ways holidays of quiet reflection and gratitude - for harvest, for family, for memories.

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