Mid-Autumn Festival, or “Moon Festival” as it is sometimes called, marks the middle of autumn based on the lunar calendar. On this night, you can count on the moon to be full and bright. In many Asian cultures, this occasion is arguably what Thanksgiving is to Americans—a time to gather “round” with family and feast. If the adult children all return to their parental home to celebrate, the family “circle” is round and complete. In recent decades, barbecuing has become a popular way to share the meal, presumably because it’s easy.
Obviously, this year has dampened the festivities, but at the very least, most people got some mooncakes. These round or square confections, traditionally made with a rich filling of paste from lotus seed, red bean, mung bean, or jujube (date), may also contain one or more salted (duck) egg yolks to symbolize the moon. The thinner the crust, the better. In Taiwan, another popular style is spherical with a puff pastry–like crust, richly yellow from the egg yolk, and a sprinkle of black sesame seeds on top.
This year’s Mid-Autumn Festival fell on the past Thursday. I was too busy with work to think about going to my nearest Chinatown (not close enough to where I live) to seek out mooncake (and, frankly, not in a festive mood). A friend told me the supermarkets in London’s Chinatown were sold out of the ones with egg yolks inside. So, I’m not the only one who missed out… and hopefully I’ll find some “out of season.”
Back to the moon itself. Feminine in French (la lune) and Spanish (la luna), masculine in German (der Mond), our expectations of it around the world seem to differ vastly. In Chinese, a famous song now almost half a century old declares, “The moon represents my heart.” Roughly translated,
You ask me how deeply I love you,
with what measure?
Go take a look; go have a think—
The moon represents my heart.
The gentleness and constancy of devoted love is the promise therein.
What of lovers separated by geographical distance? Another poetic saying goes, “A thousand miles apart, we gaze upon the same moon.” The cold rock is now a mutual constant, an implicit (though unwitting) go-between.
(This concept is somewhat modernized in the lyrics of Staring at the Sun [Tant Que J’Ai Le Soleil] by pop singer MIKA:
“Here I stand, staring at the Sun
Distant land, staring at the Sun
You’re not there, but we share the same one“
It’s just not the same… not least because longing is predominantly a nocturnal emotion. Also, don’t stare at the sun—it’ll damage your eyes.)
However, one of my all-time favorite French songs—by Indochine—portrays the moon as a cruel mistress:
J’ai demandé à la lune (I asked the moon)
Et le soleil ne le sait pas (and the sun doesn’t know it)
Je lui ai montré mes brûlures (I showed her my burns)
Et la lune s’est moquée de moi (and the moon just laughed at me)
I suppose it depends partly on luck, like most other things. What does the moon mean to you?
After a couple of weeks’ moratorium on sampling perfumes, I ventured back into my small stash of vials today and the first one I pulled out happened to be—Moon Bloom by Hiram Green. I had gotten used to stronger scents from him after trying Voyage 2019 and Vivacious (both included as extras in the discovery kit I purchased), so this one was pleasantly surprisingly light. The first flower I recognized was jasmine, even though Moon Bloom is a tuberose perfume. It is decidedly a conversation between full-bloom white florals and their nectars. Indolic for sure, but to my nose it stays “vegetal” even as it concentrates deep into the base of the flower, next to the stem. Soon after the opening, there is a spicy element as the tuberose, jasmine, and ylang-ylang all chatter at once, and then it settles down and becomes more balsamic. I don’t really get the coconut note that’s described, but could see (smell) how the creamier aspects of the flowers blending with the resins could be interpreted that way. It never gets too sweet.
The moon could be shining on a tropical midnight garden, but you wouldn’t know it with your eyes closed.