The following is transcribed from a conversation between the performer (HH) and I (ZM).
ZM: Are there any other large Chinese holidays that you don’t really see celebrated…?
HH: Um we also celebrate, um August 15th. That’s Lunar New Year Calendar. Um Lunar Year Calendar. Um it’s to celebrate… I…um it’s the, the Mooncake Festival. That’s the English name.
HH: Yeah. We eat mooncakes during that time to signify the round shape of the moon, that’s when it’s supposed to be the roundest, that month. And um… There’s a story behind it, you have to um google it. It’s about um these ancient, this ancient couple. I learned it in my Chinese class when…in high school, but I forget. It’s a love story. And we just watch the moon and eat mooncakes um and we um we go to relative’s house to exchange um boxes of mooncakes. Yeah.
ZM: And the mooncakes are like the store mooncakes, right? Or are they like, a different…?
HH: Store mooncakes yeah. Rarely people uh make it themselves. Um yeah they come in squares and then there’s like eggs…um egg yolks inside. They’re pretty good. You should try them.
ZM: But not like…They’re not like the Hostess like moon pies…Are they different? What are the moon… Like can you… What are the mooncakes? Are they the like chocolate covered like…
HH: NOoOo they’re not chocolate. They’re not that. (laughs) They’re a lot more traditional you’re gonna have to search it up. Um it comes in squares and there’s egg yolks inside and then like…I don’t know how to describe it…
ZM: Is it sweet?
HH: Umm… Yeah. It depends on what flavor it is. It comes in different flavors.
ZM: Okay, what are the different flavors?
HH: Like, red beans, and some other nuts. (laughs) I don’t… A lot of these things are meant to be said in Chinese.
Context: This is from a conversation I started with HH about her Chinese culture.
Background: HH was born in China and raised in Oakland, CA. Both of her parents are Chinese, and they speak limited English. She is a sophomore studying at the University of Southern California.
Analysis: This holiday in particular was difficult for HH to explain because it is often discussed in Chinese and the translation is not always clear. I think my confusion with the American Moon Pies also confused me. If I had never heard of a Moon Pie there would have been less confusion about the Chinese mooncakes.