Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival: The Other Human Interest Post

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!

Various commissions and prototypes are keeping us here busy and the Mercenary is fast discovering that artist's block (or whatever the technical term is) isn't any more pleasant than writer's block. We should have photos of some of the prototypes soon (including a doublet and hopefully a cranach dress if the brustfleck ever behaves itself).

That's about it, really. What follows is but a rambly post on Mid-Autumn Festival. I hadn't time to change out of the linen dress we were doing photos of (at Kowloon Walled City Park during the day; I happened to be taking someone around) so proceeded to wander the rest of the festivities in an approximation of an outfit from Pride and Prejudice (more on the kit in due course).

After a lengthy dinner with the extended family and an amount of moon cake bordering on the obscene, we went to see the Fire Dragon Parade and proceeded to the Mid-Autumn Carnival at Victoria Park. Most people seem to have abandoned the tradition of wandering around with paper lanterns (see photo) and instead have chosen to festoon themselves utterly with glow-sticks.

More photos of the non-flaming dragon and reflections on the festival under the cut.

We're very big on our gaudy signs around here. This one announces the Fire Dragon Dance - which is a lengthy dragon porcupined with incense. It would have been an amazing sight had we caught more than a glimpse of it. Health and safety (which has long been the bane of Hong Kong traditional festivals, such as the Bun Mountains and the Wishing Tree) now stipulates that the dragon must be stripped of its incense before the parading commences.

Thus after about half an hour (or so) of waiting for the dragon to come by, during which we could just see it smouldering on the other side of an almost solid crowd to a seemingly constant crescendo of drums and cymbals, we were treated to the sight of the above not very flaming straw dragon.

Incidentally, it's really long. The tail goes on for an impressively long time. An amount of time that would be even more impressive were it actually still lit.

Even the great signs and lanterns that preceded the dragon were unlit.

Photo of the Moon Itself. Round, isn't it? Man is reunited with the Moon, they say. Now drink some tea, eat some moon cake and be nice to your family.

The Victoria Park Carnival has long been the heart of Hong Kong Moon Festival celebrations. Even if you don't go there yourself (most don't, even if it doesn't feel that way) you catch it on the evening news as you sip your tea, eat your moon cake and watch the little ones play with fire. It is perhaps wise and sensible to ban lanterns with lit candles, but it the cranky old woman in me hates the change.

Blurry photo of the giant lanterns. There are far prettier photos of the carnival by other people. It's not unimpressive, but there was also a giant lantern of a coke can (though there is something perhaps quintessentially Hong Kong about that).

Here's Chang'E reminding you to not burn wax. Telling her story and remembering her is integral to my moon festival, but I understand it's not always remembered (who is that woman on the moon cake box, some may ask). We all have our own versions and I remember the days at boarding school when we'd trade versions. The version I tell now is the one with the wise Chang'E who saves us all from a greedy immortal Houyi, but it accumulates many details from the versions I've had told to me. That's how oral traditions work, after all.

The warmest, fuzziest feeling I got from the festival, funnily enough, was when I gave two little girls one of my bamboo rods for their paper lanterns (so that they don't burn their hands) after some other strangers helped them get the candles lit. It's not exactly what Moon Festival is "about", but moments like that stick with you.

Or maybe I just like candles.

Oh, and making a paper lantern do a loop-the-loop on your bamboo stick whilst lit is really satisfying.

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