SYDNEY, Sept. 29 (Xinhua) -- With a large and long-standing Asian population, Australia's Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations have grown stronger year on year, which for many means tracking down mooncakes in local family-run grocers and other speciality shops.
This year, Sydney residents Mr. Cheng and his wife, were surprised to find mooncakes on the shelves of one of the biggest supermarket chains in Australia, Coles.
"This is the first time we saw mooncakes in Coles," they told Xinhua. They also found the price competitive. "It is cheaper."
A spokesperson from Coles told Xinhua that the supermarket chain introduced mooncakes in a small-scale trial, as part of their effort to better represent the multicultural communities they occupy.
"We celebrate many different holidays and religious festivals at Coles such as Christmas, Hanukkah, Australia Day, Orthodox Easter, Diwali and Ramadan as we always aim to represent the communities we serve," the spokesperson said.
"This year, for the first time, Coles has introduced mooncakes in a small number of stores as part of the Mid-Autumn Festival."
The Cheng couple, who is originally from China's Hong Kong, said they were a bit at a loss that the brands Coles offered were not the ones they were familiar with. "Otherwise I will surely buy it as it is also more convenient for me to buy from Coles," Cheng said.
Another Coles customer, Gloria, a retired nurse living in Sydney, said because her husband is Chinese she had tried many mooncakes before. "(The flavour) is very rich, but I like it," she said.
For those living in Melbourne, the city at the centre of Australia's second wave of COVID-19 infections, the year has been particularly hard and the convenience of buying mooncakes from a mainstream supermarket like Coles makes it possible to purchase them while still abiding by lockdown rules.
Despite the pandemic, local small businesses who make their own mooncakes on site found that demand for the holiday treats remained high.
Jim's Malaysia, a restaurant in Sydney said on their social media page that they were not able to accept orders anymore due to surging demand before the upcoming holiday.
"Orders have been coming in thick and fast and we're trying our best to keep up," another restaurant owner Billy Wong said.
"We've also started selling them in four-packs with more modest packaging for people to eat at home rather than a gift. And you can always dine-in at one of the restaurants and order mooncake for dessert."
The opportunity to dine out for Mid-Autumn festival is not one that anybody will be taking lightly in the time of COVID-19.
Fear of outbreaks has meant that the country's usually large scale Mid-Autumn celebrations, including street festivals, art installations and firework displays, have mostly been cancelled.
However with cases in Sydney relatively low, recording zero new local infections for several days leading up to the event, residents are able to get out and about, much as they did before the pandemic -- with even some smaller scale Moon Festival events taking place.
At Sydney's flashy new Asian dining district, Darling Square, hundreds of lanterns in pink, turquoise, yellow and orange are lit every night between Sept. 25 to Oct. 11, creating a localised and COVID-safe celebration for people to take part in.
"The Moon Festival is a beautiful celebration that's particularly magical for children across most of Asia, and we wanted to create something beautiful that was hopeful and healing as we all recover from COVID-19," festival organiser Marina Zarnitsyna said in an interview with local publication, Broadsheet.
Diners can enjoy a special Mid-Autumn festival-themed meal, such as mooncakes from Sydney's Chinese dining institution, Golden Century, or "moon-viewing rice dumplings" from Japanese ramen house, Iiko Mazesoba.
At the end of the meal, they can also purchase a lantern to take home, with all proceeds going to a charity which helps locals in need.
"The symbolism of having your own lantern is to send your wishes to the world," Zarnitsyna explained.
"We wanted to create a magical atmosphere that puts the focus into the present moment and celebrates the most important things in life like family, friends, connection and love." Enditem