Here in Taiwan it's the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, which falls on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. So that means it's a day off for me today and it also happens to be a beautiful day outside.
The sound of soaring crackling firecrackers started last night and continued into the wee hours of the morning. There is no concept of "disturbing the peace" here. Where public gatherings and celebrations are concerned, the louder, busier, noiser and more crowded it is the better. Taiwanese people seem to be impressed by this. Perhaps it's just the mode of living here since Taiwan is an island of just over 35,000 square kilometers and 23 million people. The measure of a successful event or opening is the attendance or participation. Everywhere you go, especially on weekends, holidays or after working hours there are crowds of people in the departments stores, night markets, theaters, everywhere, everywhere.
In Taiwan every major event (from weddings to political rallies, or any excuse for a celebration) is celebrated by the relentless unleashing of firecrackers. There are little or no regulations regarding the private use of fireworks. I wouldn't be surprised if Taiwan had the highest per capita usage of fireworks. Nor are there any safety regulations on how they are produced. There have been one too many unfortunate news stories of spontaneously combusting firework factories and the resulting casualties.
The Mid-Autumn Moon Festival is a time for family and loved ones to gather together, eat barbeque under the open sky, and gaze at the moon.
There are also several legends of the moon festival which are described in brief in this Taipei Times article.
In the weeks leading up to the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival people give and receive boxes of mooncakes and pomelo fruit (seasonal only during the two to three month period before and after the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival).
Mooncakes have a thick pastry-like exterior and are traditionally filled with red beans, egg yolk, lotus seed or nuts. They now come in a myraid of new flavors. I personally don't care for them much and find them quite dense. My family and I have received so many thoughtful boxes of mooncakes, that we have more than what we know what to do with. And none of use seems to care much for them. The funny thing is when my parents have tried to "regift" them to others it seems like everyone else has had more than their share of them and are pretty tired of them too.
I think that mooncakes have become like the fruitcakes of the east. They are a traditional gift that we feel compelled to give, something that no one really wants or needs, and that most don't even like to eat. What a thoughtful gift, but I don't think I could manage another bite.