Winning Moon Cakes

and Ang Pao!

By now, Tony is so at home with Ilocano traditions that he often thinks he is an Ilocano, too.

I can't say the same for me with Chinese traditions, especially the Moon Festival. All I knew was that to celebrate it, one ate moon cakes. My in-laws had all gone to glory too soon and the possibility of being introduced to this festival became nil—until last week.

The Mid-Autumn Harvest Moon fell on September 22 this year, and I was delighted to be invited by Tony's cousin to join in the family celebration!

To those unfamiliar like I am, every year on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, when the moon is at its brightness for the entire year, the Chinese celebrate "zhong qiu jie."

There are many legends on how this started but the most interesting one, for me, is this:

Overrun by the Mongols in the 13th century, the Chinese vanquished their oppressors in 1368 AD. The moon cakes—which the Mongols did not eat—were the perfect vehicle for hiding and passing along plans for the rebellion. Everyone was instructed not to eat the moon cakes until the moon festival, which was when the rebellion happened!

Tony said he had been celebrating this festival in his office with his staff, although very modestly, with moon cakes and one Ang Pao (a red envelope containing cash) as prizes for the dice game. Unfortunately, I never got to attend any of them. Chinese people usually celebrate the festival with dances, feasting, and moon gazing. And moon cakes!

Moon cakes are sweet, rich, yummy and very complicated to make. Roughly the size of a human palm, these goodies are sold at rather steep prices so we don't get to eat them very often.

But this year, between Tony and me, we brought home quite a bundle! And that's on top of all the Ang Pao we won in the dice game! After a burpy meal, all 14 of us (ages ranging from 9 to 85, composed of the family patriarch, matriarch, heirs, grand heirs, and Tony and me), gathered around the table and took turns throwing the six dice in a bowl. The object of the game was to win as much prizes by getting prescribed number combination.

Prices were, well, moon cakes from Shangri-la Hotel and heaps of Ang Pao.

Did I win? Everybody did, but as in all raffles and other games of chance, I always end up with the most insignificant prize.

My prizes of grace, however, bubbled over: One, I had fun—shrieking, joshing, laughing, and making noise for the first time with Tony's kith and kin. Two, since I am now an authority on Moon Festivals, I could pass for a rare creature of Chinese descent homegrown in Ilocandia.


Yay Padua-Olmedo said...

Ilocanong Chinese! Not bad, Grace. Next time, please make sure you reserve at least one mooncake for me. I love it next to Mcdonald's.

Grace D. Chong said...

One moon cake coming up!