Zhongchiu Jie - The Moon Festival

The Moon Festival celebrates harvest, abundance and family unity. It is one of the most widespread and popular holidays after the New Year. To join the celebration, get ready to eat mooncakes, dance and make paper lanterns.

The Moon Festival celebrates harvest, abundance and family unity. It is one of the most widespread and popular holidays after the New Year. To join the celebration, get ready to eat mooncakes, dance and make paper lanterns.

Zhongchiu Jie is a family celebration that takes place in China, Korea, Vietnam, and other Asian countries. Like American Thanksgiving, it's a day to give thanks for the harvest, and in this case the rice harvest. Zhongchiu Jie falls on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month, when the moon is at its fullest and brightest.

On the evening of the Moon Festival, family and friends gather in parks, gardens and homes to enjoy the moonlight and tell special stories. Often, people climb hills and mountains to get the best view of the Harvest Moon.

Special foods
Special foods are an important part of the Moon Festival. The moon's roundness is a symbol of family unity and harmony, so many round foods are served. The most famous festival food is mooncake, filled with sweet beanpaste, nuts and dried fruits, or a duck or quail egg yolk-a moon!! (See recipe below.) Store-bought moon cakes have Chinese symbols stamped in the pastry's center. It is customary to buy mooncakes for people who work with you, as well as for your family.

Decorations
During the Moon Festival in China, people decorate with colorful paper lanterns shaped as animals and flowers. When it is dark,candles placed inside the lanterns glow like little moons. The effect is similar to jack-o-lanterns-a warm glow of light at a time when the days are getting shorter and the nights darker.

Recipe for Chinese Mooncakes
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 can red bean paste or 1 cup jam

1. In a large bowl, combine butter, sugar and 1 egg yolk. Whisk until creamy.

2. Add flour and mix thoroughly. Form dough into one large ball. Wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. Unwrap chilled dough. Form small ballls with the palms of your hands. These are the mooncakes.

4. Gently make a hole with your thumb in the center of each mooncake. Fill the hole with about half a teaspoon of your favorite jam or red bean paste. Seal mooncake dough around the filling.

5. Brush each cake with the other beaten egg yolk.

6. Bake mooncakes for about 20 minutes, or until outside edges slightly brown.

Let them cool completely, then wrap in bright paper and share with your friends and colleagues. Enjoy them by the light of the full moon or by the light of a special paper lantern. Tell family stories while you munch your mooncakes.

Yield: about 24 mooncakes


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