Over the past two weeks, our agency has definitely been marked by a spirited enthusiasm as we approach one of the busiest periods in the business calendar – Autumn Moon.
One thing that noticeably stands out is the constant ring of the doorbell. More often than not, it is representative of another delivery of rectangular or round pastries measuring about 10cm in diameter, filled with a thick lotus seed paste and surrounded by a thin crust containing yolks from salted duck eggs. These traditional Chinese pastries are commonly known as ‘Mooncakes’.
Regardless of how many years I have now witnessed this gifting practice, it continues to be a most interesting phenomenon. To give you a bit of background – the Autumn Moon festival originated in China and is also a celebrated festival in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea and Vietnam. The Mid-Autumn Festival is an important holiday in the Chinese calendar, second only to Chinese New Year. Traditionally on this day, Chinese family members will gather together to enjoy the full moon, celebrate the harvest season and eat moon cake together. Of all the celebrated Chinese festivals, the Autumn Moon it seems holds special significance due to its capacity to unify friends and family. Highly concentrated Asian suburbs all seem to be alive and abuzz with many frequenting entertainment hot spots and restaurants.
Chinese bakeries are also working round the clock, trying to keep up with the incessant demand for mooncakes. These traditional pastries are purchased and gifted in the thousands. Companies to clients, families to friends, neighbour to neighbour; for a fortnight the beautiful boxes circulate freely, ending up in office boardrooms and family homes right across the country.
Now, the funny thing is, as far as I have ascertained, most people rarely eat more than half a mooncake at one go. Rather, they are seen as a small, rich bite, symbolic of a time to share in one another’s health and happiness.
In addition, these days it seems they serve as legal tender of the ‘Face Market’ more so than a yummy treat. Failing to give and receive the appropriate amount and value of mooncakes before the Autumn Moon is akin to a social loss of face “But they gave us such a huge box, and it was from XYZ. We MUST send a better box in return”, are the type of remarks commonly heard in social circles. Everybody knows the price of the major brands, so this “face currency” is as reliable as a diamond from Tiffany. The culmination of all this is that most families end up with a surplus of Mooncakes. This is not in itself a bad thing; however, when you commit to a serious plan to shed a few kilos before the season of sun, sand and surf, it could drastically nullify all weight loss efforts.
The whole season, therefore, turns into a furious race to gift their mooncakes before the Autumn Moon is gone and they lose all their social value. I like to call it ‘The Great Mooncake Exchange’ – a wonderful period of social gift-giving in an effort to win the affection of and show gratitude to family, friends and business associates alike.
Like I said – it’s a phenomenon that never ceases to amaze me and is as intriguing as it is peculiar. For when that doorbell rings, you never quite know just what kind of mooncake is going to be waiting for you – from green tea and red bean to sesame.
Drop by our offices in the next two weeks and you’ll be sure to indulge in this wonderful experience. As a matter of fact, I think I hear the doorbell now.
By Daniel Assaf
Image source: http://www.socwall.com/images/wallpapers/34537-2560×1600.jpg