zondag 11 november 2012

Singaporeans do things the same: Lanterns in autumn

It seems lanterns in autumn are quite the northern hemisphere thing. North America has Halloween, with lit up pumpkins, China has its Mid Autumn Festival, India has Deepavali and The Netherlands have St Maarten on the 11th of November, a saint's day celebrated by children carrying lanterns and going around houses singing praiseworthy songs and receiving candy. Yes, it's a warped, goodie-goodie Catholic version of Halloween. Except it's not actually celebrated in the Catholic part of the country, but in the protestant bit. The Catholics get carnaval, at which time all rules and social norms fly out the window and everybody dresses up, dances, drinks and makes out. No lanterns, in fact, darkness is quite appreciated. Quite like Halloween for grown-ups in fact.

(Get out of your dark dingy corner and let's get back to the lanterns and the light!)

Singapore, due to its large ethnic contingent of Chinese people celebrates Mid-Autumn Festival, a harvest festival commemorating both an uprising of the Chinese against a Mongol emperor and the legend of the immortality of Moon Goddess Chang'E. This year's edition was actually in September, the start of the northern hemisphere's autumn due to the lunar calendar on which Chinese holidays are based. (We'll be celebrating New Year again in February, and this is why zodiacally speaking our January baby will still be born this year.)

In Singapore Mid-Autumn Festival is generally better known as Lantern Festival or Mooncake Festival. On my recent trips to the Netherlands I took along traditional mooncakes. Some (the nuts variety and the red bean paste variety) were politely nibbled on. Some (the snowskin custard ones and the Shanghai traditional one) were spit out. Some were simply left alone. That was very pleasant, because I love mooncakes and I could feel virtuous about only eating the left-overs.

I knew I would like them, as I had gone to Takashimaya in Singapore, where there was a huge market with stalls of all big distributors offering tastes and selling their mooncakes. So I knew what I'd bought. (And it was definitely not the durian variety - I should have backed away from that smell. It gets a lot worse once you smell it from inside your mouth too.)

(Leave that mooncake alone and go into the light!)

Mid-Autumn Festival was actually really lovely, as there were displays of lights set up all over Singapore, among them Clarke Quay (yes, the fancy dance-and-drink-zone across from our building) which we inspected at leisure. We also went all the way out to the Chinese Gardens, where we picknicked and got picknicked upon by mosquitoes with lovely friends who let their son run free as far as we do our daughter. Both of them thoroughly disapproved of the toy train and much preferred the grassy field at the back of the gardens with the view over the whole park. It was a very peaceful evening.

However, being the savvy blogger that I am, in a full months' worth of glittering light displays on my doorstep I managed to snap two night time pictures. With my phone. So look here if you want to know what the Chinese Gardens looked like. And look here if you want to see why I will never again be impressed by Sint Maarten festivities.

But in fact, the whole festival is still fairly impressive in the cold (ahem) light of day:

2 opmerkingen:

  1. Wat een geestig filmpje over de geur van een Durian. Maar die ruikt ook verschrikkelijk!

  2. Ik heb het nog niet gegeten - ben nog moed aan het verzamelen :D