Auckland's East and Southeast Asian communities can expect a low-key Mid-Autumn Festival next month as Covid restrictions put a damper on large gatherings and events.
Dominion Rd is dressed up in lanterns and flags from now until October 4 as part of Auckland's Moon Festival, the city's springtime take on the traditional autumn event celebrated across China, Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore.
A number of restaurants and shops on Dominion Rd are running discounts for a week starting Friday, but other events have had to be cancelled because of Covid-19, festival organisers say.
Moon Festival was organised for the first time last year as a three-day event, a joint project by Auckland Council, the Balmoral Chinese Business Association and the Dominion Rd Business Association.
FAMILY AND LEGENDS
Family and reunion are at the heart of the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Widely regarded as the second most important event on the Chinese cultural calendar after the Lunar New Year, it falls on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, which is October 1 this year.
East and Southeast Asian communities that celebrate it do so with family and friends over food and moon-gazing. On the sweet end, the offerings can include mooncakes and pomelo, a large ancestor of the grapefruit.
The legends surrounding the festival are plenty, but the central one tells of a solitary woman on the moon. Chang E (pronounced er) is the beautiful wife of a national hero who inadvertently consumes his elixir of immortality while trying to prevent a villain from stealing it. The potion drives her uncontrolled flight to the moon, where her immortal self remains in isolation today with a rabbit as her sole companion – a salient story in our strange time of lockdown and quarantine.
"Look up at the moon on a mid-autumn night where the moon is at its biggest and brightest, and you might see the lonely shadow of Chang E," parents and grandparents are known to say as they tell the story to young children.
Mooncakes have become an essential item of the festival and now come in every conceivable flavour, shape, size and fancy packaging.
The traditional version is a calorific pastry with a sweet lotus-paste filling and sometimes a salted egg yolk or two.
Casino and hotel group SkyCity baked New Zealand's largest mooncake last year but is also taking celebrations down a notch with Covid.
Its restaurants are offering imaginative versions of the traditional mooncake, one filled with miso custard and another with a chocolate coating.