The Mid-Autumn Festival is great. You get to munch on a compact ball of carbs and sugars while gazing at a not-so-equally compact ball of natural satellite above you. As you walk past the many thematic decorations at night, you can bask in the moonlight while immersing yourself in a hypnotic love story between Chang Er and Hou Yi. This festival is great, but the mooncake though. The mooncake…
Mooncakes seem to have lost their definition. Nowadays, it appears that anything remotely shaped like a mooncake, is a mooncake. Lotus paste and double yolk mooncake is a mooncake. Durian purée wrapped in snowskin is a moon cake. An alcohol-infused chocolate ganache in the shape of a mooncake is also, you guessed it, a mooncake. On top of ice cream mooncakes, lava custard mooncakes, macaron mooncakes (also known as mooncarons) and crystal jelly mooncakes, there are even crescent moon-shaped sponge cakes cleverly sold as mooncakes. Brands like Oreo have also joined the seasonal bandwagon and I cannot help but wonder what will be next. Perhaps an intricate and viral raindrop mooncake, or a fluffy pancake mooncake?
The possibilities are endless.
Since the reimagination of mooncakes is unlikely to cease anytime soon, it got me thinking about how they will continue to change in the next couple of years as companies brainstorm for more breakthroughs. It is at this point in time that I realised that the evolution of mooncakes is an apt reflection of the progress of Singapore.
This year, we saw Augmented Reality (AR) being infused into mooncake boxes to further increase the overall aesthetics of the packaging. Sheraton Towers Singapore worked with young visual artists to fuse technology with art to create an intricate lattice pattern for their mooncake boxes. If this does not shout smart nation, I don’t know what else will.
Beyond just saying no to plastic straws, there was a healthy chatter and discussion surrounding plastic waste generated from decorative mooncake boxes this year as well. Targeting the fact that 40 per cent of mooncake packaging is unnecessary and wasteful, there were discussions on how biodegradable plastic may not be helpful in Singapore since most of them end up in the incinerator instead of the landfill and is unable to degrade properly, thereby harming the environment. Given that there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish by weight by 2050, it is likely that human health may be implicated. This discussion on wastage triggered by mooncakes is a huge step forward for Singapore. It shows that our care towards the environment extends beyond casual formalities, and that we have the initiative to rethink how traditional festivities can impact the environment. The alignment with Singapore’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is further enhanced this Mid-Autumn Festival.
Besides mooncakes, the means of celebration during the festival has drastically changed over the last decade. As we progress as a society, candle lit paper lanterns and sparklers are gradually fading away. Now, children opt to carry obnoxious LED lanterns with changing lights and tunes that rival e-scooters’. While annoying, it is undoubtedly a safer option. Sky lanterns, for instance, can pose as a fire and environmental hazard, which explains why the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore must be informed prior to releasing these sky lanterns.
While hand-carry lanterns do not pose as serious of a threat, having LED options make this a more inclusive experience for both small children and the elderly. After all, Singapore aims to be an inclusive society, right?
In a similar vein, we see less of hazardous candles lit all over the void deck. In the past, children playing with candles would drip the wax everywhere. It is not uncommon to see melted candles with wax all over tables and chairs at the void decks as well as across pavements in parks. Cleaners can only be fearful of the frantic scrapping of candle wax the next morning. We now see not much differences after the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is a great sign. Places are left untouched as if nothing happened, and the decorations will eventually be taken down without a trace. While some may view this change as a dilution of traditions, it can most certainly be seen as a positive reinvention.
Society will always be in a constant state of renewal and progress. If you don’t believe that, look no further than your mooncake.