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Mooncakes and moon-gazing at Chinatown's autumn harvest festival

By Hayley Fox
Published: Monday, September 24, 2012, at 10:12AM
Flickr via jshyun

Chinatown will host the 74th Annual Moon Festival this weekend.

A 3,000-year-old Chinese festival where family and friends gather to gaze at the moon and celebrate the end of the harvest season will be celebrated this weekend at the Harvest Moon Festival in DTLA's Chinatown.

Beginning Saturday at 5 p.m. in the the Central and West Plaza, organizers say this Mid-Autumn Festival will combine "traditional ceremonies with more modern interpretations" -- including everything from kung fu artists and lion dancers, to ping pong tournaments, ghost stories and the Downtown event staple; food trucks.

But mooncakes take center stage at this event, with local bakeries providing free samples of the traditional, dense dessert, which has a pastry-like crust, often imprinted with Chinese characters, and a filling that consists of anything from red beans to Peking duck.

The Los Angeles Times described mooncakes as the "Christmas fruitcake of China," and said that because the delicacy has about 800 calories, health officials in Taiwan began to recommend people substitute the dessert with healthy alternatives such as fruit and veggies.

"Mooncakes have been a traditional part of Chinese food and celebration for centuries, there's no way we could tell people not to eat them," Liu Huali, chairman of the Beijing Nutrition Consultant Assn, told the L.A. Times. "Even though they're high in sugar, high in oil and high in calories, people won't listen to our advice."

In addition to eating the sweet treats, festival-goers can also get an up-close view of the moon through high-tech telescopes that will be provided by the Griffith Observatory.

This will be the 74th year for the Chinatown festival. Admission is free and the event goes until 11 p.m. Previous year's events have included contortionists, acrobats and the presentation of Miss Chinatown.

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