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The world is blessed different cultures and fascinating festive rituals that do not occur all year round. Here are some harvest festivals that take place only in autumn in several Asian countries.
Mid-Autumn (Zhongqiu) Festival – Hong Kong, China
On the night of this festival, the moon is at its fullest and brightest. Moon cakes are an integral treat at this festival. Lovely little cakes stuffed with lotus seeds and yolks represent the full moon. A long standing custom at every mid-Autumn Festival is to present moon cakes to families, the beloved and friends. Nowadays, moon cakes range widely in style. Some are stuffed with five flavors of China’s finest roasted pork, crafted with traditional recipes. Other editions are stuffed with red beans or ground lotus seeds. Unbaked snow skin moon cakes derived from Hong Kong are hugely favored in China. There are also vegan, chocolate, ice cream and seafood moon cakes.
Trung Thu Festival – Vietnam
Trung Thu Festival is exclusively meant for children, similar to the Zhongqiu Festival of China. At the beginning of Lunar August, the festival is prepared with colourful paper lanterns of all colors and shapes, sticky glutinous dough cakes and grilled dough cakes collectively known as moon cakes. Grilled dough cakes are made of yeasted dough mixed with chicken eggs and liquor. The stuffing can be flavored with mung beans and yam, ground lotus seeds, salted chicken egg, vanilla or durian. A mixed stuffing comprises a wide range of ingredients including ham, pork, shark fin, coconut, sunflower seed, lotus seed, lotus bulb or squash. Grilled dough cakes are made of white dough mixed and stuffed with sugar and fragrant pomelo juice. A round stuffing embodies fullness and integrated fortune. Fruits unique to the mid-Autumn Festival are also presented on trays. On the eve of the full moon, people gather to savor a sumptuous meal and nibble at the fruit tray.
Chuseok – Korea
Chuseok is the largest and most important ritual of the year among Korean people. At the dawn of the first day, the entire Korean family will gather at the main residential hall to perform memorial rites. Korean people deem the crescent moon as an ideal image, which explains why songpyeon cakes in this festival are modeled after the crescent moon. These cakes are made of rice dough, mung beans, sugar and pine leaves, then carefully kneaded with water until the dough no longer sticks to the maker’s palms. Beside white songpyeon, Korean people also have pink cakes of wild strawberries, dark green cakes of mugwort leaves or yellow cakes of pumpkin. Kneaded cakes are stuffed with mung beans, shaped in a crescent, then steamed in a pot with fresh pine leaves.
Tsukimi – Japan
Tsukimi is the traditional harvest celebration of Japan. On brightly moonlit nights, people gather in grass fields to admire the moon most clearly and savor Tsukimi dango rice balls, taro, tofu, chestnuts and many other snacks. Other foods are rich in sweet potatoes. These are served with sake liquor and the tradition is to ask the moon for a bumper crop.
Without the broiling and muggy sun of summer, or unbearable wintry chills, autumn is the best loved season of the year. The weather is cool, and the air is fresh, which enables travelling and vacations. At this most rewarding time of a year it is only fit to celebrate the autumn harvest, no matter where you are!