Sunday, September 23, 2012

Day of a Thousand Lanterns

Though not celebrated with quite as much fever, frolic and fanfare, the Mid-Autumn Festival still occupies a special place in my heart. None of the cacophonous cymbals, crackers and celebrations that usually accompany our typical Chinese festivals. Call her the restrained, subdued sister to the wild, flashy Spring Festival.

A softer, serene and entirely more sombre observation - one shared with close friends and family around a quiet evening meal under the light of a full moon on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month.

And possibly more than a dozen pastel-coloured paper lanterns.

Paul : Out for a walk, are we?
Panacea : Yes, with my lantern! Made it with my own two hands!

Of late however consumerism and commercialization has dragged this quiet lil mouse into the spotlight. More than a month before the actual date itself, the enterprising stores here already have their tables laden with hundreds of savoury mooncakes of increasingly... exotic tastes in beautifully appointed containers. Seaweed and floss anyone? Snow skin mango paste? Cherry Black Forest?

I'll stick to the more traditional lotus seed paste ones, thank you very much. Served with my prerequisite double egg yolks. Yes, the perpetually-dieting health-conscious gym bunnies can just scream over the thousand calories contained within.

Old-fashioned me! That's why I still prefer the cheap accordion-style lanterns to the newfangled monstrosities out in the market these days :) Not to mention the beautiful airborne paper lanterns known as sky lanterns 天灯.

Recently co-opted by Disney in Tangled.

We had our chance recently to reenact the glorious scene from Tangled just last night when the city brass decided to release a thousand lanterns into the sky to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival. Since it was the first time the bumbling city officials had a hand in organizing such a major event, I don't blame them much for the crowd control snafus.

Even when they had hundreds of overeager participants stampeding over a rickety wooden bridge to receive their sky lanterns; more than a few irresponsible cretins trampling children underfoot. Nothing like handing out freebies to bring out the worst in people. Fortunately the bridge held under our collective weight. Certainly wouldn't have gone down well if the first celebration ended with everyone submerged in a mucky pool.

Paul : Hope the bridge holds up.
Felix : Lake doesn't look too deep.
Paul : If the bridge collapses, I'll probably drown the blockhead who bulldozed his way through. 
Felix : I'll help.

Damn. The times you wish you had a gorgeous brigand like Flynn Rider to help.

But even the awful almost riot failed to diminish the absolute wonder of a thousand lanterns drifting up into the night sky with dozens of artful hopes and wishes. For a while, all the raucous noise of the masses dropped to an awed hush as we stared at an endless stream of twinkling lights snaking its way to the heavens.


Tom said...

I like the traditional mooncakes too. Especially the one with almond and nuts filling, called "em yan" in Cantonese. Kam Lun Tai ones are the best, in my humble opinion.

savante said...

Yeah those are a bit hard to find here. They don't even know what I'm talking about, tom! :P