To Chinese Malaysians, red eggs mean only one thing – a full moon celebration! We recently held a full moon celebration lunch for my nephew Caleb who was born a couple of days after Christmas.
For readers unfamiliar with the full moon celebration, it is usually held after a baby has passed one month of age. As well as a celebration, it’s a formal proclamation to friends and relatives, of the newest member of the family.
Our lunch featured the traditional Chinese-Malaysian full moon foods, each with a symbolic meaning:
- red eggs (hard-boiled eggs with their shells dyed red) symbolise new life. In Chinese culture, the colour red is associated with good luck
- nasi kunyit (yellow glutinous rice, flavoured/coloured with tumeric) represent a wish for the baby to always have a staple meal – in an extension of this, when we visit our parents and grandparents, we are not greeted with “How are you?” but rather, “Have you eaten?”
- chicken curry to symbolise that there’ll always be meat on the table – very important to Chinese people!
- ang koo kuih (literally “red turtle cake”) – the design of which represents the baby’s gender.
Just as she was for our niece/Caleb’s sister Zoe’s full moon, my sister Juji was responsible for hard-boiling the three dozen eggs and dyeing their shells red.
Caleb arrived at his full moon celebration wide awake and wriggling in his mum’s arms. Some of you will have noticed that Caleb is older than one month old. A few things that happened shortly after Caleb’s birth meant we had to hold Caleb’s celebration later than we did his sisters’. But the timing made it possible for my sister Jaded (not her real name) and her hubby to fly over from Sydney join in the celebration, which was great!
As soon as my nieces Ruby and Zoe arrive at my parents’ house and have said hello to everyone, they run over to the special pile of storybooks, each choose one and find someone to read to them. There’s never a shortage of willing readers! On this occasion, it was Ruby’s dad who read to her while she cuddled her Teddy.
Zoe insisted on wearing her sunglasses while my dad read to her. “Albie” is one of her favourite books. It’s not unusual to see Zoe asking her different readers to all read Albie to her! I think on this occasion, Albie was read three times.
While all that reading was going on, my mum and sisters dealt with the final lunch preparations. Here’s the big bowl of fragrant yellow sticky rice.
The curry had lots of chicken and potatoes in it (more chicken than potatoes, just how my family likes it!), with plenty of tasty gravy for soaking into the yellow rice.
The red eggs were served with their traditional accompaniment, pickled ginger.
Jac is a big fan of pickles and loves the pickled ginger.
I love ginger and don’t mind pickles, but for some reason, don’t like pickled ginger. So my plate is always pickled ginger-less. I love curry gravy on my rice and soon went back to the curry pot for more. Regular readers will know how much I love drinking a tasty curry gravy!
My mum had been careful to make sure the curry wasn’t too spicy and so the little girls ate the curry and yellow rice just like the grown-ups. Zoe was quite focused on the chicken while Ruby rather liked the stickiness of the yellow glutinous rice.
They also enjoyed the hard-boiled eggs, although Ruby was initially a little more suspicious of the red eggs. I laughed at the girls’ different responses to the red eggs:
Ruby: Why is the egg red?
Zoe: I want to eat the egg!
Zoe ate her lunch with her sunglasses still on her head.
Mum’s “bone containers” made from recycled junk mail catalogues made an appearance as usual. This time, we didn’t just use them for chicken bones – they were very handy for egg shells too.
In my parent’s lounge room, giant stuffed animals (a gift from my parents to their grandchildren) guarded more full moon food which would be delivered to the rest of the relatives later.
Caleb was awake throughout lunch (he had a feed too, at his personal “milk bar”) and stared at me whenever I pointed the camera at him. I think he recognises the camera, if not me. :)
The ang koo kuih are made with glutinous rice flour and have a chewy, rubbery texture, filled with sweet mung bean paste. They were individually wrapped so they wouldn’t stick together. If the baby is a girl, the ang koo kuih all have the more ornamental-looking turtle design. If the baby is a boy, you get a turtle plus a plain ball. I have also heard some people give two balls to represent the boy (appropriate, I suppose ;)). I used to dislike the taste of ang koo kuih, but this time around I was surprised that I really enjoyed them.
A friend of my mum’s made special butter cakes with butter cream icing for the girls’ full moon celebrations and now, she made one for Caleb too.
The cake smelled deliciously buttery and it was hard to resist the urge to steal a bit of icing off the edge when no one was looking. I did resist, really! But I know Ruby and I were both thinking the same thing as we caught each other sniffing the cake! :)
I love butter cream icing and was secretly very happy with the thick layers of icing on my slice of cake.
Caleb’s mum, my sister-in-law Angela made cupcakes with lemon icing on top. As soon as I smelled their delicious lemony smell, I wanted to eat one! Like my nieces, I started on the full moon butter cake and then moved onto a lemon cupcake. I shared the cupcake with Juji though – by this time I was fast approaching cake overload.
Ruby was really looking forward to the cake and asked more than once during lunch: “When are we going to eat the cake?”
She declared: “This is yummy cake!”
Zoe chose a slow method to eat her cupcake: lick by lick, starting at the lemon icing.
Auntie TFP: Do you like this full moon party, Zoe?
Just like his sisters at their full moon parties, Caleb eventually fell fast asleep. It’s hard work being a VIP.
Previous full moon celebrations
The menu is mostly the same for each full moon celebration, but yellow rice, curry and red egg is one of my favourite combos. Since I only eat this meal every couple of years, I enjoy it every time. It’s wonderful to think Ruby and Zoe’s full moon parties were really not that long ago, but here they are, joining in the fun and celebrations! They were both very excited (both very proud of their little brother) and Ruby even made Caleb a special full moon card!