Bring out the mooncakes! It’s the Mid-Autumn Festival aka Mooncake Festival aka Chuseok in Korean or Tsunami in Japanese.
Falling on the 13th of September, this is definitely one of my favourite festivals of the year, where we would gather around and the elders would tell the story of how this festival came to be.
Ancient Chinese emperors would worship the harvest moon in autumn, as they believed that the practice would bring them a fruitful harvest each year.
It became an official festival during the Song Dynasty, marking the 15th day of the 9th lunar month as “Mid-Autumn Festival” where offerings were made to a well known lunar deity, Chang'e aka Moon Goddess of Immortality.
Although it used to involve moon worship, in this day and age, it's more a time for gathering, prayers and is more about giving thanks for what we have.
So where do the mooncakes and lanterns fit in? The tradition of eating mooncakes only began after the ruling of the Mongols, where mooncakes were used to pass messages to overthrow the Mongols during the rebellion.
However, it isn’t clear how lanterns came to be a part of the festival except children were seen carrying lanterns and releasing them into the sky.
Speaking of the moon, have you ever wondered what flowers only bloom under the moonlight? Look no further because we’ve got the answer here.
As the name suggests, they are called Moon flowers because they only bloom in moonlight. These magnificent, nocturnal bloomers come in predominantly white, red and yellow colours.
They are renowned as a treat for those wanting to witness its magic in the evening. It is so short-lived that it flowers in the late afternoon and closes by morning.
The reason these flowers bloom at night is so that night-flying moths can pollinate the flower. When moon flowers bloom, they emit a special scent, drawing the moths to them.
If Gladiolus sounds familiar, it’s because it comes from the Latin word meaning sword. The name probably came about due to their spiked leaves looking like swords.
Distributed all across Europe, Asia and South Africa, this charming flower comes from the lily family, only blooming between early summer and late spring.
Blooming only in the evening, they come in a variety of colours such as a creamy yellow colour, or a white and deep purple.
A member of the Solanaceae family, this flower typically grows in the Caribbean or West Indies, blooming at night and closing its flowers during the day.
This jasmine species is not commonly found in one’s garden as its flowers and berries are poisonous to humans and certain mammals.
Known for its pungent scent, it could very well overpower the regular air fresheners bought in stores. These greenish-white flowers only flower up to four times a year, after that, they produce white berries full of seeds.
You may have seen this on the shelves of your local pharmacy, benefiting those with acne. Deriving from the Onagraceae family, these pale yellow flowers are also known as suncups or sundrops.
Many evening primrose species bloom at dusk and close at sunrise. The flowers are normally pollinated by hawkmoths, which fly at night and are attracted to the sweet fragrance and light colour (white or yellow) of the flowers.
The light colour also allows for greater night-time detection. Although most evening primroses are yellow, white and pink species are often seen during summer time.
Tan Hua aka Dutchman’s Pip Cactus
Remember that scene in Crazy Rich Asians, where everyone gathered around to witness the blooming of this magnificent flower?
This night blooming cactus is native to Mexico and Costa Rica. They bloom typically between the months of July and October with flowers that are large and strongly scented.
There's even a Chinese metaphor behind this flower, tan hua yi xian- meaning short-lived or a flash in the pan. Needless to say, if you do want to catch this bloom in action, grab a seat as it is for a single night only!
I think it is safe to say that the one flower we Malaysians are acquainted with is the Tan Hua. It holds a very special place in my heart personally as it is an occasion shared with family -- flower watching. It brings out certain feelings of family love, if you will.
That being said, all the flowers listed here are special because they are so short-lived. They remind us to maintain a sentiment of gratitude and thanksgiving, that something good can come and go within a very short period of time.
To all celebrating this magical festival, Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!
Do you have a special memory you’d like to share? What traditions did your family have when celebrating Mid-Autumn Festival? We are all ears.