Monday, October 1, 2012

Happy Lantern Festival!

Singapore is currently celebrating one of its major holidays, the Mid-Autumn Festival. It's also known as the Moon Festival. According to Chinese mythology, instead of a man in the moon, a beautiful fairy princess named Chang E lives there with her only friend, the Jade Rabbit. They are both immortal thanks to the ingestion of some magical herbs. The rabbit occupies his spare time by making moon cakes with a mortar and pestle, which are the traditional food eaten during this holiday (so kind of like the Easter Bunny?).
This is sort of the Chinese equivalent of Thanksgiving: at night families gather together to enjoy meals (originally moon cakes and fruit; now barbecue is popular) and admire the moon. Lanterns are an important part of the holiday too: kids make them, play with them, and larger ones are displayed all over the city. In Singapore, they also open up temporary bazaar stalls selling food, knickknacks, and various home goods, and hold numerous public performances. It's kind of a carnival atmosphere.

R has been fascinated by the lanterns, so we all went to the Chinese Gardens over the bridge lined with lanterns, where massive lantern displays, food stalls, rides, Chinese acrobat performances and the like were on offer. The lanterns depicted various scenes from Chinese and Western mythology/fairy tales, and are all hand-made of silk.

 After appreciating the lanterns for a while, we picnicked on the grass in traditional style.
We ate fried rice, various skewers, curried chickpeas (Indian food at a Chinese festival? that's Singapore for you), corn (very popular Chinese snack)...
And R's favorite, chilled soy milk pudding (really very good).
 We stayed until it got dark. Watching the lanterns as the light changed was really beautiful.

Then we went to an hour-long show by performers imported from Sichuan (my camera ran out of batteries, sorry). Some opera, some Western-style music, some acrobatics (really impressive as Chinese acrobats usually are: helps that they use child labor! The star performer was 13.), some fire breathing, some face changing...R was fascinated and watched intently the whole time (except for the Chinese opera section, which seemed to frighten her. Most Westerners think Chinese opera sounds like cats mating: perhaps R thinks so too?).

We were out quite late (R went to bed at 9:30), but when we left the party was in full swing, with fireworks exploring, kids running around with lanterns, and everybody having a good time. I really like this holiday!


  1. This looks like a great day out! It is so awesome that little R is getting to see so much of another culture! Honestly, I am jealous! I lived in England and Germany as a kid and looking back I wish my parents had taken me to see as many things as you take little R to!

    Also: I'm going to be channeling... you... next week! I am accompanying my husband on a business trip and have decided to get out and go see things, instead of just hanging out at the pool the whole time (though we will still go to the pool!). :)

    1. Your upcoming week sounds like fun! Usually I do things just with R (since B has to work) and we have a great time: it's really interesting to see her reactions to everything. Hope you blog about it!