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Mooncake: gift culture or green culture?

Mid-Autumn Festival, one of the biggest Chinese celebrations, is fast approaching, which means it is time to celebrate the harvest moon. In the old days, farmers relied on the moon’s bright light to harvest their crops after dark, especially during autumn when the harvests are at their largest. Nowadays, the festival is a time for families and friends to come together that symbolizes harmony and togetherness. During the Mid-Autumn Festival, people gather to light lanterns, gaze the full moon and feast on mooncakes! As a form of respect, mooncakes, whose shape represents the moon, are given to seniors: grandparents, parents, and partner's family and friends.

Pre-order period sets in mid-July to early August from retail stores. Hampers are also bought for family celebrations, but are commonly corporate gifts🎁.

When talking about mooncakes, recent studies have raised concerns about the health implications of consuming mooncakes that are high in calories as well as the environmental impact of mooncake waste alongside the wasteful luxury packaging. Despite these concerns, this traditional mooncake delicacy remains popular and the mooncake market continues to thrive. So, what are the reasons behind this enduring popularity? Let’s begin by exploring how and why mooncakes have become a gift culture.

The Gift Culture

The concept of gift culture has its roots in anthropology and sociology. From the point of view of anthropology, gift-giving is a form of exchange that differs from bartering that involves an immediate exchange of goods or services without delay in time. Gift-giving is also a form of exchange without using money but in contrast, the rewards are generally not immediate. Gift-giving involves an expectation of reciprocation implying an obligation to give, an obligation to receive and an obligation to reciprocate.

Gifting aims to build and solidify social relations over time, which is associated with a confirmation of a continuous relationship. During the Mid-Autumn Festival, mooncake gift exchange plays an important role to affirming social connections in a society. Lacking the give-and-receive exchange may raise a doubt in one’s social life. Later, the gift culture has evolved into a gift economy in the context of mass production and mass consumption economic systems.

The Green Culture

After talking about the gift culture of mooncakes, how about the green culture of mooncakes in Hong Kong? In

response to most public disapproval of over-packaging, mooncake producers have been launching new recyclable packaging and organized metal mooncake box recycling campaigns. Surplus mooncakes can also be donated to the needy through some organized mooncake donation schemes. However, these measures may only provide short-term solutions to mitigate the environmental impact of mooncakes.

A 2016 survey by local environmental group Green Power identified one reason for excess mooncakes. It was studied that there are increasing number of people purchasing mooncakes as gifts, however, there are also a growing number of people who do not like to receive them. This results in many unconsumed and wasted mooncakes. Even people do not like to receive mooncakes, they are obliged to give, receive and reciprocate because of the structured gifting practice. This has explained why mooncakes remain popular. Moreover, this ironic practice is further compounded by the largely greenwashing eco-friendly mooncakes wherein the mooncake market continues to thrive.

Meaningful social and sustainable relationships

Mooncake gift-giving has deep cultural, social and economic significance. The mooncake gift culture accomplishes social bonding between givers and recipients. However, behind this obligatory exchange is also a “dislike” for the gift, which became an environmental burden. Perhaps it is time to consider a new way of shaping meaningful social and sustainable relationships when celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival.

On the day of the Mid-Autumn Festival, take a moment to relax and gaze at the full moon. Recall happy moments with your loved ones. LocalHood has prepared a Mid-Autumn Festival e-card for you to download to extend your social connections. LocalHood wishes you and your families a healthy and sustainable Mid-Autumn Festival!


1. If you are interested in learning more about the theory of gifting, you may want to read Marcel Mauss' essay, “The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies” written in 1925.

2. The survey conducted by Green Power in 2016 is titled “Mid-Autumn Survey: An Eco-friendly Mid-Autumn Festival” and it can be read from

Food waste unfortunately is a big part of the festival. In 2018, 80,000 mooncakes were collected and the figure is rising annually. Approximately 80% of recycled mooncakes are from big manufacturer or chain stores. Once the festival passed, mooncakes are more often than not trashed. Such a waste!

This year why not share the joy of mooncaking by giving to less privileged. In recent years, NGOs collect mooncakes in donation boxes at housing estates and commercial buildings. Recycled mooncakes have to meet a criteria, so please refer to the NGO’s guidelines for donation. These mooncakes are distributed after the festival.

NGO Food Grace, recycles mooncakes every year. This year they are partners with HK01 and many local corporations to the budget for mooncake as donation for community programs.

Want some yummy mooncake recommendations on Mooncakes😋? Here you go with our top choices:

1. Traditional Mooncake

a) Four Seasons Hong Kong’s lotus paste and salty egg yolk mooncakes are known for its smoothness and depth of flavor in the lotus paste (made primarily from lotus seeds) and the golden gleam of the salty egg yolk.

Price: HK$508 for box of 4 large mooncakes.

Sold in: Four Seasons next to IFC

b) Shanghai Tang’s traditional mooncake are a pricey but elegant selection. The box lights up for a perfect celebration under the full moon.

Price: HK$628 for box of 3 large mooncakes.

Sold in: Shanghai Tang Pacific Place

2. Egg Custard Mooncake

a) Peninsula’s egg custard mooncakes are sought after and are sold out by end August every year. These mooncakes are super popular for its creamy and soft texture and light taste.

b) Patisserie La Lune’s egg custard mooncake has an egg tart-like crumbly crust and melt-in-your mouth egg custard with egg lava filling. The mooncake tastes best warmed in an oven(or microwave). Estimated to be available around late August.

Price: HK$198 for non-recyclable box of 4, HK$195 for recyclable box of 4

Sold in: Citysuper

c) Imperial Patisserie’s egg custard mooncake with lava filling has a wild following. Their head chef invented the egg custard mooncake during his time in Peninsula. His latest offering-the egg custard mooncake with lava filling- won the Grand Gold prize by the Monde Selection 2019 in Bruxelles. Available for wait-list around late August 2019.

Price: $368 for box of 8

Sold in: Citysuper

3. Snow Skin Mooncake

a) Snow skin mooncake is a Hong Kong invention by Tai Pan bakery. Made from glutinous rice flour, it has a gooey texture like the skin of mochi ice-cream.

They are sold in small packs of 2 or big boxes of 8. Wide assortment of flavours in a single box.

Price: HK$300-400 for box of 8 (around 50% discount in Park N’ Shop) or HK$70-90 for 2

Sold in: Park N’ Shop and Shun Tak Building atrium

Mali Home’s durian snow skin mooncake is made of fresh durian from the company’s durian farm in Malaysia. The icy snow skin pairs perfectly with the soft and textured durian flesh.

Price: HK$298-HK$688 depending on durian type

Sold in: Citysuper

4. Chocolate Mooncake

a) Chocolate mooncakes are a new breed of chocolate for chocolate lovers. It’s like biting into your favourite chocolate but in a cookie-sized chunk. Makes one wonder if a Chinese Willy Wonka invented it in his chocolate factory with his Oompa Loompas.

Lookout for:

b) Agnes B. fruity or nutty chocolate mooncakes

Price: HK$320 per box of 4, HK$220 per box of 2

Sold in: Agnes B IFC

c) Four Seasons nutty chocolate mooncakes

Price: HK$300 per box of 2

Sold in: Four Seasons IFC

A luxurious alternative is a mid-autumn hamper, beautifully packaged and filled with fruits, dried seafood, mooncakes, wine, chocolates. They are usually sold in supermarkets and hotels and need to be pre-ordered.

5. Social movement edition mooncakes

Wah Yee Tang Bakery mooncakes uses fun slogans such as “add oil” and “Hongkonger”. And here is another “don't touch my back’s” red bean paste; a joke originated from the police. These mooncakes celebrate and reflect HK’s current social situation.

If you have tried any yummy mooncakes, or anything Mid-Autumn festival related please feel free to tell us!

Last but definetely not the least, Localhood is co-organizing with other NGOs for a Mid-Autumn Festival street party on 8th September! There will be numerous stalls at Centre Street. Come for tasty food sharing, fun games, lantern quiz and more! It’s all free-of-charge! Perfect plan for a Sunday with neighbours, family and friends! 🏮🎊🎉

Check out our Facebook fan page: Local Hood Official or click here to for updates!!


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