Monday, October 4, 2010

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!

I married into a conventional Chinese family, more traditional than my own; in doing so, I have been thrust into participating in ancient Chinese customs and celebrating numerous Chinese festivals.  Chinese culture is rich in cultural customs and deeply embedded in traditional festivals. Just like Christmas and Thanksgiving in the West,  the Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the few most important holidays in the Chinese calendar, the other being Chinese New Year.  It is a holiday to celebrate togetherness of the family, and is a legal holiday in several countries..

The best part of Mid-Autumn Festival is the merriment that comes with playing the dice game.  The Moon Cake Festival dice game originated in Southern Fujian, China, where most of the ancestors of the local Chinese migrated from.  It is a busy social month for my family every September as we get invited to several dice games; it seems that everyone is organizing one… the swim parents, C’s Tuesday group, B’s good friend from school, the beautiful moms from R’s pre-school, but we always look forward to the one organized by C’s side of the family. 
The family's festive proceedings is always jump-started with a sumptuous Chinese lauriat lunch.  After being satiated and when the tables are all cleared, everyone gathers on all sides of the table, around a ceramic bowl with 6 dice in it.  There is no limit to the number of participants – the more, the merrier.  Everyone take turns throwing the dice into the bowl with hopes of getting the “zhung yuan” - the grand prize! 

The game itself does not follow any strict rules; it is no wonder that the rules vary as you participate in one dice game to the next.  But the one thing that is constant is that there are prizes for everyone! Even unlucky ones still get consolation prizes, so everybody goes home happy.  Traditionally, mooncakes and hopia are being given as prizes.  As the years passed, the mooncake and hopia as prizes have evolved into more practical items like school supplies, toiletries, snacks, toys and sometimes, even cash. Whoever wins the 1st prize is considered to be lucky and would have a great and fruitful year ahead.
Enjoy the food, the game, the prizes, and the laughter!  Happy mid-autumn festival!

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