Our new collection, Mooncake, dropped just in time for the Mid Autumn Festival, and I didn't realize how emotional and nostalgic that was going to make me. When I was little, the Mid Autumn Festival was my favorite holiday of the year (and that even included Xmas!). I wasn't the kind of kid that was big on being given gifts because it was a specific day... but what I was big on was getting to do a special activity for a specific time of the year.
Li'l Kim and mom's traditional moon festival activity was take out paper lanterns from Chinatown, light a birthday candle, precariously put it in the inadequate metal prongs inside the bottom of the lantern, tie it to a chopstick, and do a circuit around the backyard while the full moon was out. Afterwards, we'd come into the house and eat a slice of mooncake that my dad would have chopped up and put on a saucer (because you're not allowed to eat a whole mooncake by yourself - that's just too much).
My mom's from Hong Kong, and she speaks Cantonese - so she taught me this song that I always called the "lantern song." I can't even translate it into English, but I know every single word and could pick out the tune no matter how tone deaf the singer. It's so ingrained in my memory that singing along is pretty much an unconscious response at this point, the same way Bostonians can't help but scream "BUH BUH BUM" anytime anyone starts singing "Sweeeeeeet Caroliiiiine." At the age of 4 or 5, it was the absolute best thing I could imagine doing - getting to stay up late and sing a special song with mom over and over for hours (I'm sure she didn't appreciate it as much as I did), walking around in a California garden that looked totally different at night, and playing with paper lanterns and fire (more on my budding pyromania another time). I feel like there's gotta be other Chinese-American kids out there who've had similar traditions.
Fast forward about 30-something years... I live in Massachusetts now, and my mom's still in California. I'm far away from my family, so my mom sends me mooncakes every year because "it might be hard to get them out here." A couple years back, she messaged me and told me she found all my old lanterns and plastic mooncake paraphernalia while cleaning out some storage. She told me she'd mail them to me if I wanted them, otherwise she'd throw them out. Of course I wanted them. I don't think she even realizes how big of a deal they are to me, a person who already lives ensconced in trash because I can't let go of anything sentimental (I'm still driving & fixing up my first car).
I found that box of lanterns about a month ago, and let me tell you, that one kicked me right in the FEELINGS. Not being able to go home and stay with my family has been tough - the pandemic put a stop to my summer visit plans, and with the way things are going, it doesn't look like I'll be seeing them for any of the holidays either. Maybe Chinese New Year, if America gets its shit together. I decided that until then, I have to turn my Feelings into something productive, maybe even beautiful. This is how the Mooncake collection was born. It's the distilled essence of how much my mom and dad loved me in their own Chinese immigrant way, by making this holiday extra special from the cake-rationing, to singing that repetitive song and walking around the backyard with me for hours while holding a fire-hazard tied to a chopstick.
The Mid Autumn Festival is meant to celebrate happy reunions. Everyone gets together with their families and has dinner together. The lanterns, the moon, all that is just cursory, because the point is that you're supposed to enjoy it together.
Even the legend of Chang O the Moon Goddess is about reunion. Story goes: once upon a time, there were 10 suns in the sky, scorching the crops to death with their heat and endangering the earth and everyone who lived there (uh... hmm... I guess that's a little bit timely now that I think about it). We need a hero, and that's our homeboy, Hou Yi, an archer and problem-solver extraordinaire. He takes a look at all this global warming and decides he's gonna fix it by shooting down 9 out of the 10 suns to even things out. BAAAAM!!! Peanut butter and jam.
He was rewarded for his good deed by the divine goddess, who gave him a nip bottle full of 100% pure straight up ascension and immortality, which he brings home and squirrels away instead of taking, because he loves his wife Chang O too much to ascend without her. Lot of different interpretations on the exact details of how the following events transpired, but one of the most common ones is that a jealous neighbor breaks into Hou Yi's house while he's not there and tries to burgle the nip of immortality for himself. Chang O's there, and she knows she can't beat this sucka's ass, so she comes up with a brilliant plan of swallowing the elixir, hiding away, and muling it for later. Unfortunately for everyone involved, when Hou Yi returns, he finds her floating away into the night sky! I think we know what happened here. Kids, this is why we don't mule things. Chang O ascends to the moon and becomes immortal there... sadly far away from her husband on earth. So every year, on the day she floated away, Hou Yi makes a huge feast of her favorite cakes and brings it outside so they can be reunited when the moon is full.
Lemme tell you, a guy who saves the world from global warming, AND bakes me my favorite cakes...
You can probably see now why this story ticks all the boxes for being on-brand for Tasty Treat. It's got saving the world from a climate crisis, it's got togetherness, and it's got cake. It's all the things I need right now to keep on going until I can next see my family, and I wanted to share that same celebration of togetherness with my pole and dance community at large. If 2020 has taught me anything so far, it's that I shouldn't take family, community, and togetherness for granted at all.
Leave me a comment below with the plans you're looking forward to when you're able to reunite with your pole/aerial/dance community!
To be continued...