Today I found myself posing with pomelo rind on my head. Despite the image you may have formed of my antics based on my previous blogs, this is not my regular get up (though, if I get a good reaction I could consider adding this to my “Autumn essentials” wardrobe).
You see, it’s Mid Autumn Festival (Zhong Qiu Jie, 中秋節) this weekend and it’s tradition to eat pomelos, and to put the rinds on your head. I’m not even making this up. Chinese culture, you’re doing it right. Let’s learn a bit more about Mid Autumn Festival and why people put pomelos on their head to celebrate.
What is Mid Autumn Festival?
The Mid-Autumn Festival is a harvest festival celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar with the full moon at night. It’s celebrated by ethnic Chinese, Koreans and Vietnamese people and falls during late September to early October of the Gregorian calendar. One part of the tradition is to make offerings of fruit, wine, and mooncakes, to the mythical moon goddess, Chang’e, in gratitude for her blessings on the harvest to come.
The countries which celebrate this festival all celebrate in particular ways. In Taiwan, people typically celebrate by gathering with their loved ones to have a barbecue of delicious meats. According to the Strait Times, the practice of began in the 1980s after television advertisement campaigns by barbecue sauce companies. Barbecues were presented as a new take on the Mid-Autumn Festival’s theme of family reunions. Evidently, food plays a pivotal role in this celebration, not least of which the humble pomelo.
Why do people put pomelos on their head during Mid Autumn Festival?
According to GoChengdoo, “After munching the pomelo’s sweet and juicy flesh, the Chinese don’t dispose of the skin; instead, they put the pomelo rinds on their heads. In Mandarin, pomelos are called 柚子 (you zi), a homophone for words that mean “prayer for a son.”
Therefore, eating pomelos and putting their rinds on the head signify a prayer for the youth in the family. In addition, believers claim that by placing pomelo rinds on their heads, the moon goddess Chang’e will see them and respond to their prayers when she looks down from the moon”.
Despite the startling realisation I had today that I am not in any way Chinese or Taiwanese, nor am I an infant (despite being called both of these at various points this year), when my teacher handed me the pomelo and insisted I put it on my head, how could I say no?
Here I am with my wonderful teacher! I promise my class is usually focused on non pomelo-on-head related activities. In fact, just before doing it I had a two hour exam! So it was a nice break to learn about traditional culture.
Lime Cat’s connection to Mid Autumn Festival
As soon as my teacher explained about this tradition (all in Mandarin of course!), I immediately thought of the helmet cat picture which went viral many years ago. His name is “Lime Cat” and he first appeared in 2004 (don’t you feel old now!)
“Could the cat have been celebrating Mid Autumn Festival too?” I pondered, naturally striking a pose bearing an uncanny resemblance to “The Thinker”.
Needing to know the answer to this mystery, I explored the depths of the internet and found the answer I could only hope was true! Sometimes, the world delivers.
According to the venerable source of all internet things, KnowYourMeme.com, “The helmet worn by the cat has been long presumed to be made of lime. However, it is most likely a carved pomelo that is traditionally worn during the Mid-Autumn Festival in Chinese culture, suggesting that the photograph may have originated on the Chinese Internet.
Do you know how significant this revelation is?! I feel like this should be common knowledge, there must be a way to make a public service announcement in every country. Everyone should know this wasn’t some whack cat who is wearing any old citrus fruit for kicks. He was trying to celebrate his culture and keep Chinese history alive.
What a noble cat. What a hero.
This lesson on pomelos and internet meme cats was proudly brought to you by yours truly. Don’t you forget who brings you the hard hitting journalism!
Happy Mid Autumn Festival all! (Dajia Zhong Qiu Jie Kuai Le! 大家中秋節快樂!). I’m going down south to Kenting with three of my best friends here to enjoy a bit of beach relaxation! Super excited. I’ll let you know how it goes when I get back!