Today is this year’s Mid-Autumn Fest day, calculated through the lunar calendar. Families celebrate by having moon cake, pomelo, tea and gather together to marvel at the moon.
In New York, I would commute to Chinatown all the way from Columbia just to get a moon cake. (That’s a 2 hour commute, there and back.) It’s not about the pastry, but rather the nice feelings it stirs up. But eating moon cake alone is sad. Like binge drinking bad boxed wine at 2 in the morning sad.
Whenever we have moon cake, I have flash backs of when my cousin and I would take every holiday as an excuse to celebrate as seriously as we knew how to. If there was a ritual, we were going to do it. (Making dumplings for Chinese New Year and putting real money in the meat mixture? Gross and the most unsanitary, but heck yes. Having a gingerbread house competition on Christmas Eve? High-fructose corn syrup and Bulk Barn, you’re welcome for our business. The list goes on. We are just celebrators, plain and simple.)
There was one particular year, we took the phrase “賞月“, which means marveling at the moon, literally.
A pot of tea was made with my mom’s traditional Chinese tea set, a set used only when we have guests. We threw in some loose leaf tea that was in a box on top of our snack pantry – Mother&Co.’s personal stash. The pot itself is mini and so are the cups. To say they hold less than a shot of tea is no exaggeration. But that is the idea behind quality Chinese tea — to sip slowly.
In our end of Summer attire we were slightly shivering from the cool air, but far too excited to care. We placed the reddish porcelain teapot in the middle of our plastic backyard lawn table and poured ourselves a cup. We didn’t sit down, but just paced around. My cousin passed me his binoculars so I could have a better look. The backyard motion sensor lights were broken and the only brightness was whatever illumination was coming out of the house.
My mom laughed at us through the kitchen’s window for acting like two old geezers, then asked us how the moon was.
Impatiently as kids, we gazed around the blue tinted sky and expressed how large the moon was — to each other and shouting through the screen doors for my mom to hear. To the left of our backyard we moved, to the right of our backyard we moved, shaking our legs as the grass brushed by and the bugs swooped in.
Our moon cake, sliced into slivers, gone within minutes. We gulped down the bitter Pu’er tea, slammed the bottle cap sized cups down and smacked our lips.
Then we went inside – belly full and curiosity subdued. Another holiday down.
This is how I remember and will always remember Mid-Autumn Fest.
And why I love gazing at a full moon.