Fly me to the moon

9 09 2011

I joined the clay artists of the Thow Kwang Dragon Kiln for an early Mid Autumn celebration at the kiln. The moon that graced the event wasn’t of course as full as it should really be during a Mid Autumn celebration, but provided an opportunity to see the firefiles that can be found in the wooded area around the kiln.

It wasn't anywhere near a full moon, but that did not stop clay artists at Thow Kwang Dragon Kiln from celebrating the Mid Autumn Festival.

The Mooncake Festival as it is known to us in Singapore, is celebrated by ethnic Chinese communities around the world on the fifteenth day of the eight month of the Chinese calendar. Coming immediately after the seventh or hungry ghosts month, the lead up to it is greeted with excitement and anticipation by many children. As a child, it was during the first two weeks of the month when shopfronts were decorated with the colourful display of cellophane lanterns, bakeries do a roaring trade selling mooncakes, and piglets in attractive baskets are snapped up by children eager to sink their teeth into them.

As a child, I would look forward to seeing shopfronts decorated with colourful displays of cellophane lanterns similar to this one seen in Chinatown in the 1980s.

It wasn't just the bakeries that were doing a roaring trade in mooncakes. Mobile vendors selling mooncakes such as this one seen on Smith Street in the 1980s who is selling mooncakes from a trishaw.

The mooncake festival is often accompanied by pomeloes.

What is wonderful to know is that despite the changing patterns of what children play with over the years, the eagerness with which children look forward to the Mooncake Festival hasn’t diminished. Children are still seen all throughout Singapore not just during the festival, but also in the lead up to it, walking with lanterns that glow in the dark of the night. The lanterns which are still very much a must have for children, were for a period of time in the 1990s, threatened to be taken over by noisy inflatable plastic battery operated lookalikes that somehow takes the joy of carrying a lantern that is illuminated by the flickering light of a candle. The most popular lanterns when I was a child were those that I am glad to see, have made their appearance once again, ones that are made of coloured cellophane paper wrapped tightly over a wire or bamboo frame in shapes of animals and cartoon characters. I remember some of my favourites include a goldfish and one that resembled Ultraman.

The glow of a cellophane lantern in the shape of a chicken.

Paper lanterns which are also popular, are a lot more affordable.

This year’s Mid Autumn festival will be on the 12th of September and the start of the last term of school when exams arrive fast and furious will not deter children all over Singapore from coming out in numbers to bring coloured light on a night when the moon will be at its brightest. It is a sight that I enjoyed as a child, one that I still enjoy seeing today, and one that I hope will continue to be seen for many generations to come.

Lightsticks now add to the colours of the celebration.