Mooncake Festival in Penang

Since the beginning of time, mankind has long harboured a strong fascination with the full moon. The oriental versions does not feature a werewolf and is slightly more romantic.


elebrated by the Chinese on the 15th day of the eighth lunar moon (around late September depending on the time of season), the Mooncake Festival commemorates  the overthrow

of the Mongols, when the insurgent revolutionary leaders, by way of smuggling secret messages in mooncakes, called the people to revolt. The secret messages contained the time and date of the revolution because public meetings were forbidden. This led to the overthrow of the oppressive Mongol rulers and the liberation of the people*.

The other version of the Chinese legend about the festival has its protagonist as a beautiful woman known as Chang-er. She was married to Hou-yi, a remarkable archer who shot down 9 of  the 10 suns the Chinese believed existed. However, Hou-yi became arrogant and wanted to become


immortal by getting two pills from a certain Goddess. When both pills were eaten, the person would become a God or Goddess. Chang-er eventually discovered her husband’s intent, and knowing what a tyrant he is, she decided to destroy the pills – for an immortal tyrant means great suffering for the people. But before she could dispose of the pills, her husband caught her in the act, and in her desperation, she swallowed both pills. Chang-er became an immortal herself, floated to the moon and is now worshipped as the Moon Goddess.


evotees of the Moon Goddess say their prayers at the altar offering joss-sticks, candles, pomeloes and mooncakes. Mooncakes, especially, are the delicacies  to look forward to during this festival. Shaped like the moon, hence its

name, mooncakes vary from red bean paste or “tau sar” to lotus paste or “lin yung” to mixed nuts to new concoctions made with durian, yam, pandan and even tea flavoured ones.

It is not uncommon during this festival to find friends and relatives exchanging mooncakes as gifts and a gesture of appreciation. For the general Penangite, it is another excuse to gorge themselves with another delightful seasonal delicacy.

The children in particular will be seen parading along their neighbourhood lanes with beautifully lit traditional lanterns of coloured paper or the modern ones with electrical lights. Whether candle or battery powered, the lanterns come in an amazing myriad of designs, bearing the likeness of animals, cartoons or comic superheroes.

Most of today’s children would have missed this joyous tradition, preferring to stay perched in their high rise apartments submerged in their favourite TV programmes or computer games. For the handful who still throng the streets parading their lanterns, an ancient and joyous tradition is kept alive, its spirit rekindled like the flickering flames of the candles.

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