While the America’s were enjoying their blood moon, we had just finished worshiping the moon ourselves here in China. The lunar eclipse coincided with Mid-Autumn festival, a day you are supposed to gaze at the full moon, eat moon cakes and enjoy the day off. (Sadly, the lunar eclipse was during the daylight hours in China so we missed it.)
I’ve written about Mid-Autumn festival several times (check it out here and here) and I thought after six years, it was just the same old, same old. But I learned about a new tradition only celebrated in Xiamen…bobing! And because of it, I got a ton of free stuff.
Bobing is super simple. (The name translates to “gambling for mooncakes” which shows its origins during the Mid-Autumn Festival, the only time you eat mooncakes.) It’s not quite gambling, as you really have nothing to lose. You don’t put up money or lose anything yourself. Instead, all you do is throw the blue and red dice and collect your winnings.
I never quite figured out what was a win. It seemed like reds and fours were important. But when you do bobing so many people stop and watch, their reaction is good enough to figure out if you’ve won or lost. (Also there is always a host who verifies and shoves a prize in your hand.)
And it is just everywhere. The past few weeks I have been hearing the clattering of dice on a ceramic bowl wherever I go: the shopping malls, the small noodle shops, supermarkets (including Walmart) and even at the bars. One night my friends and I played bobing and won so many free shots we didn’t pay for a drink all night long.
Let’s see…what else did I get?
At the fancy foreign supermarket spending 100 rmb entitled me to one roll at bobing. I won a prize with that one throw (a can of coke) so they let me try again. I won “big” the second time, and was allowed to choose one of the top tiered prizes: face cream with bleach to make my skin whiter, a big heavy bag of rice, or some powdered iced tea. Honestly, I didn’t want any of it but how could I say no? (I chose the tea.) As I was walking out the store the employees kept saying “congratulations.” I felt like a rock star for winning that iced tea and Coke.
Besides the shots I also won several mooncakes, belly dancing classes, some art pins and a bunch of small gift certificates. Several of my friends won money in various games, and my unlucky friend won a pomelo and had to haul the heavy ass fruit around for hours.
I can’t say I’m sick of these special holidays in China, but after so many years they have lost a bit of their luster. So it’s always fun to find something new and local, that makes the holiday a bit more fun. Now excuse me while I drink my free coke, eat some mooncakes and call to schedule my belly dancing classes.