Learn some Cantonese words for the Mid Autumn Festival, thanks to Hong Kong Unveiled! Will you be enjoying a yewt beng tonight?
Mid Autumn Festival, Juung Chow Jeet, 中秋節
15th day of 8th lunar month, September
An important day for family reunions. People finish work early to have dinner with the whole family. Married couples must either separate and go each to his own family for dinner, or, by preference, arrange that one dinner is attended at 6.00pm and the other at 8.00pm. Everyone then goes out to parks, hilltops and beaches to enjoy the full moon, serng yewt, 賞月. Children play with paper lanterns, dung luung, 燈籠, lit by candles. Traditional designs include a long colourful paper tube, star fruit, yerng to, 楊桃 (the seasonal fruit), or rabbits, yuuk to, 玉兔. According to legend, rabbits live on the moon and make the elixir of life.
More modern lantern designs include aircraft, spaceships, tanks, animated characters, etc. For safety purposes the latest design of lanterns use plastic and are lit by battery-powered light bulbs. The lanterns are tied to a bamboo stick, so they can be carried; or have wheels, so that they can be towed.
Yewt beng, 月餅, moon cake, is the signature dish of the festival. In Hong Kong, all bakeries and many Chinese restaurants produce a wide variety of moon cakes. The traditional pastry is filled with ground lotus seed paste and two salty duck egg yolks. There are varieties with none, or up to four, salty egg yolks per cake.
Shanghai moon cakes have a nut and ham filling and Chiu Chow style cakes are filled with fruit or vegetable purée, such as pineapple or taro. Ice cream makers produce moon cake ice creams, dipped in chocolate to represent the pastry. Western bakeries are more innovative, with fillings of pistachio, green tea, marzipan, wasabi, tiramisu, etc.
Pomelo, star fruit, and ling gok, 菱角 (a type of nut that resembles the Chinese character for eight), are the seasonal fruits to take along to the parks to enjoy while watching the full moon.
Mo for luung, 舞火龍, fire dragon dance, is performed to ward off bad luck in the Tin Hau Temple in Tai Hang, Dye Harng Teen How Meeu, 大坑天后廟. Thousands of sticks of burning incense are tied together in the form of a huge dragon. Twenty or more people are needed to carry this and dance on every road in the area over the evening. The dance always ends with a final performance at Victoria Park at about 9.00pm.
By contrast, in mainland China everyone stays at home; there is no celebration and no tradition of lanterns for children.