Chinese Christmas

It has been a mad year and a bit, and last night I was commenting to Naomi that I feel as if I’ve been run off my feet. It could have been tiredness from work. It could also have been the beers and wine I took trying to ameliorate the tiredness.

I decided this week to observe the traditional Chinese observation of the winter solstice because it was probably the only Chinese custom my mother observed diligently and consistently. So last night, Naomi and I went and bought rice flour to make the glutinous rice balls (tang yuan), pandan leaf for the syrup/soup and beetroot to make the coloring for pink tang yuans.

It was a double treat for Kai especially as he got to make the tang yuan himself before walloping three helpings for breakfast (Starch and sugar is an awesome combination for an active 2.5 year old, and I left for work so Naomi could experience the effects on Kai all by herself).

Naomi’s mum says that winter solstice tang yuan are special because they can automagically tell whether your age is an odd or even number by the number of tang yuans in your bowl, no matter how randomly you scoop them out of the pot.

It worked for Kai, Naomi and our helper, but I spoiled the stats by eating everything before remembering to count them.

My mother, being the Malayan-born western-educated ethnic-Chinese career woman that she was, used to tell my siblings and I when we were young, that this observance was known as “Chinese Christmas”, and that if we didn’t wake up early to roll the tang yuan and finish off the balls, the “real” Christmas wouldn’t come, which meant Santa wouldn’t deliver the goods.

This is the first Chinese Christmas without my mum. I miss her, but I think she’ll be happy her observance and special back story will have some more mileage with Kai for a while.


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2 responses to “Chinese Christmas”

  1. Darren Koh Avatar
    Darren Koh

    And therein lies the power of the story: the retelling of this story keeps her alive, for no one is truly gone until the last person who remembers passes away.  Family rituals such as these keep the family alive…  Good on you for keeping them up!

  2. Tabitha Avatar

    This is a great tradition, I’m going to put it in my diary so when I have children of my own, I will put it into practice so they’re at least halfway cultural!

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