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  • 1879 Article - The Poem of the Moon EN

The Poem of the Moon

Written by Jackie Kai Ellis and translated by her mother, Stella Kai.

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There’s an old poem from the Song Dynasty my mother had told me about. It was by a poet named Dong Po, which spoke of a man living far from his family during a time of traditional festivity. As he longed to be near his loved ones, to celebrate alongside them, he looked up at the night sky and found comfort in the thought that they, too, gazed upon the very moon he was admiring.

My mother, Stella, has lived away from her home for more years than she was actually there. She grew up in Hong Kong and emigrated at the age of 21 after my dad wrote her a letter asking her to join him in Canada, to marry him. And as with her own mother before her, who left Northern China during wartime; and me, leaving Vancouver to study pastry in Paris – we each had packed a bag and tread unknown paths to faraway places, far from familiar people. Each of us like Dong Po’s character, yearning and yet familiar with bittersweet memories of past holidays, when we were together.

  • Poem to the Moon - Poem Quote 1 EN
  • Back then, my mother wrote letters – phone calls and plane tickets were rare and costly. Though, I remember as a child when relatives managed to visit during Lunar New Year, they would bring suitcases full of dried scallops, dried dates and Chinese candies from my grandfather’s bakery. Gifts were carried from cousins, second cousins, grand-uncles and aunts I didn’t remember meeting, but was told that when I had visited as a baby, they had liked me most. I imagined the scent of the suitcase, vaguely like Chinese herbs, was a blend of my mother’s home, her memories and all the good wishes that were packed inside.

    With each family visit, little-by-little, my heritage was brought to me. Though I thought I knew it, my heritage. I thought I already understood it through the Chinese dishes we cooked and ate together each night, or through swinging lanterns shaped like glassy orange goldfish at spring festival, or with the steamed bread in the shape of dragons and peaches arranged on plates for our ancestors. Then when relatives from Hong Kong came to visit, I discovered foods, words, stories of a culture and of my mother that I had never known before. It was in those moments that I realized my mother was the author of my heritage, with my long lineage written in pages even before her.

  • Poem of the Moon Quote 2 TEXT EN

    Centuries ago, family clans were born from choosing a poem, and each generation would be named using its characters, one after the other. Each birth, each branch would be recorded in a book, some which still remain at a temple to this day, safely kept. 600 years ago, my mother’s clan began with this: 居恆立本,積德存良, which when roughly translated means, “Always build a solid foundation, with dignity in your character, through good deeds and a kind heart.”

    The girls in my generation were given the character Sue (meaning, the character of a lady). Our names – Sue-Ting, Sue-Wai, and mine, Sue-Kwun – connect us in a surprisingly intimate way. My mother chose for me the character Kwun, also from a poem written in 800 BCE. She artfully paired its meaning, “the character of a gentleman,” with its other half because she wanted to see her daughter be as gentle and caring, as she was strong and courageous. So, in addition to my heritage, my mother also gifted me my character.

  • Poem of the Moon Quote 2 Image

With this Lunar New Year, many of us find ourselves unexpectedly far from our families. It’s true that this year we must change the way we give, though giving is still the vein through which our love flows. Instead of visits, we will send messages and videos. Instead of sharing a meal, we will send boxes of traditional sweets. Instead of handing lucky envelopes, we will find new ways to send our wishes of prosperity around the world.

For me, it was natural to gift my mother this Bijoux Birks Dare to Dream New Year. One for each of us to wear, another beautiful connection to share for future moments near and far…since, as Dong Po so eloquently wrote, it is a precious gift to behold the same beauty, no matter the distance.

  • The Poem of the Moon Portrait Photograph
  • About the Author

    Jackie Kai Ellis is a creative director, entrepreneur, pastry chef, lifestyle writer, public speaker, author and the cochair of the non-profit, YES! Vancouver. She is best known as the founder of Beaucoup Bakery, for her design of APT La Fayette in Paris, and her bestselling memoir, “The Measure Of My Powers.” She lives in Vancouver and Paris. More on Jackie can be found at @jackiekaiellis and www.jackiekaiellis.com

A selection of meaningful pieces for you to share with your loved ones, carefully chosen by Maison Birks:

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  • Poem of the Moon Suggestion - Birks Dare to Dream

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    BIRKS DARE TO DREAM™ LUNAR NEW YEAR PENDANT

    Welcome a New Year of good fortune with this pendant which features the mesh motif of the Birks Dare to Dream™ collection, encircling a golden ox engraving and a diamond nestled inside. The design creates a stunning contrast with the brilliant red enamel band on one side and a luminous 18KT yellow gold band on the other.

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