Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mid Autumn Festival

I don't like lights
There's a paucity of public holidays in the summer in Hong Kong, which is why everyone looks forward to typhoons, of which there's been a regrettable lack this year. However, with the middle of September comes the Mid Autumn Festival, the culmination of six months' worth of mooncake advertising, and a day off after everyone has stayed up late looking at the moon.

I asked several locals what they'd do on the day off, and they all said they'd go shopping. As that's already one of the national pastimes, it didn't seem like they were marking the occasion in any special way, but then the moon can't be accused of only making rare occurrences in the night sky.

There's lots of things the moon can't be accused of: the collapse of the financial system in 2008, the Falklands conflict, the wreck of the Hesperus ... well, maybe that last one, but I tend to think that the moon's apparent immunity to accusation speaks of something suspicious. Why can't we blame the moon for everything? Does it have friends in high places covering up for it? If I even start to blame the moon for Danny Boyle's slightly-disappointing directing career after the early promise of Shallow Grave and Trainspotting, people act as though I'm the mad one.

I'm not mad.

I'm just a bit different.

Anyway, the holiday is celebrated by hanging out with your relatives, and eating cholesterol-laden mooncakes until your arteries fur up, and possibly going out to look at the moon, or lighting lanterns which will float up into the air and later set fire to somebody's crops. (If you're going to be traditional about it.) Hong Kong's government takes a dim view of casual arson these days, but they have set up a carnival in Victoria Park.

'Carnival' to most people suggests either some Brazilians wearing two or three strategically placed feathers, or (to Londoners) Notting Hill being crammed full of humanity on the August Bank Holiday, along with some cheery coppers in shirtsleeves and as much reggae as you can possibly handle. And in both cases, drums. Although the seasonally-appropriate music at most Hong Kong holidays seems to consist of nothing but drums (and drums played with monotonous regularity for several hours), there weren't any drums in Victoria Park tonight. Rather, the carnival is a lot of lights, sometimes strung up between trees, sometimes inside elaborate models of animals or teapots.

Lion!  Horse!  Dragon!  Something!

Which is nice, and rather peaceful (or it was on Saturday night when I took these photos) but it does seem a bit strange that you'd celebrate a festival based around the appearance of the moon by, well, looking at other light-emitting objects instead.

To be fair, some people (like the guy at the top of this post) are intent on ignoring all light-emitting objects save for the screens of their phones. But I can see why people would ignore the moon when ostensibly they were meant to be looking at it.

It's because they know the moon has done something wrong. They're just not sure what.

Heavenly bodies, eh?

I am of course contractually obliged to include the most obvious and obnoxious pun here that I can think of. Here goes:

"I had Uranus in the back of my cab once. What an arse!"

I am so very, very sorry.


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