This year’s Zhong Qiu Jie (中秋节), Mid-Autumn festival, is just around the corner, Sep 10th to be precise, and it is a time for Chinese learners around the world to take a break in their regular study routines and to enjoy some of the festivities. Let’s remind ourselves that learning Chinese is also about gaining insights into Chinese cultural practices and about participating in the cultural activities. And you don’t have to be in China to enjoy Mid-Autumn festival.
Everyone knows that moon cakes are an important part of the festival. However, many people do not know that fruits, especially the fresh and seasonal ones, are also a delicious component that many Chinese people enjoy at this time. For this reason, I am going to introduce some must-have fruits.
In the North where I grew up, Zhong Qiu Jie is the time for beautiful succulent fruits, like apples (苹果), pears (梨), and peaches (桃). There are also tasty grapes (葡萄), and persimmons (柿子). I love them all, and I have some fond memories of Mid-Autumn festival in the good old days. It is possible that these memories have been recreated many times for the better! I remember, the weather was cooling off. The summer heat was gone. After dinner, friends and families enjoyed each other’s company in the yard where the moon shone brightly above. People sampled two three kinds of moon cakes, some fresh seasonal fruits, and drank tea. Activities included reciting some poems about the moon and guessing word puzzles.
In the South, there are some popular tropical fruits which I did not know when I was a child, such as star fruit (杨桃) and pomelo (柚子). For me, star fruit looks strange, and it can be sliced into a full plate of stars, which I always find amazing. When I first had pomelo, I thought this fruit was so well protected with a thick skin. Dragon fruit (火龙果) is so artistic looking. And Mango (芒果) is so tasty. All these fruits are popular during the Mid-Autumn festival.
There is another tropical fruit, durian (榴梿). Durian is not really a Mid-Autumn festival fruit. It inspires love and hate at the same time. I think it is the most scary fruit of all. Durian does not want to be eaten. It is protected underneath a thick layer of armour, and has such a repellent smell. Nevertheless, there are many people who are durian’s dedicated fans.
Also, after living in Hong Kong for so long, I’ve learned that some fruits have auspicious meanings here, for example, 梨 sounds similar to 利 (profits). 葡萄 has seeds in them. Seed is 籽 which sounds similar to 子, and therefore signifies more sons or children. It’s interesting to know, but I don’t really believe it because using homophonic sounds to explain Chinese can be dangerous. For example, 梨 has the exact same sound as 离, which means “to leave, to separate” and that is not auspicious at all in traditional Chinese culture.
I recon that people can find all kinds of different fruits in a nearby grocery store nowadays. Regional differences or seasonal difference are not so obvious as before. It is perhaps the best time for everyone to have a fruitful Mid-Autumn festival. 中秋节快乐!
(This article was updated on September 8, 2022. )
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