Last week we celebrated the Chinese Autumn Festival and in a week or so we will celebrate the Irish equivalent – Halloween. Food is important in both – it is time to enjoy the fruits of the harvest.
In the Chinese celebration the Moon Cake takes centre stage and in Ireland it is the barmbrack.
It China the family gather for a special meal, but they are also thinking of their ancestors, thanking them and praying for them.
In Ireland the latter part is dying out. Now scary ghosts replace the ancestors and youngsters would not look favourably on receiving a token of the harvest, such as an apple, in their trick-or-treat bag.
In Ireland everyone got a slice of the barmbrack in which might be a ring, a coin or a thimble. That would foretell whether they would marry, get rich or remain ever single.
The round moon cake symbolises completeness and togetherness in the family, living and deceased. The emphasis is more on relationships than the individual — sharing the work, the fruits and a sense of achievement by working together.
As you see from the photos, we celebrated in Maynooth and with the Chinese Catholic community in Dublin. And the moon cakes arrived in time.