Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Dongzhi: The Chinese Winter Solstice Holiday

The Winter Solstice Holiday is a big deal for Chinese people. But I did not grow up with this holiday. Maybe because Christmas is also the winter solstice holiday and it was a time for me to reconnect with my mother's side of the family (the white side) in Philly. But after I had kids I started noticing the Tang Yuan they made at BCNC and Facebook updates and it occurred to me that yes I was sort of introduced to this holiday by my Sifu the few times that I did not visit my relatives for Christmas.

Mostly it was just that Si Mo would bring over containers of soup (Salty soup) with the Tang Yuan in it. It was only once at the Kung Fu school that I sampled a hastily made sugary soup by Sifu, and the circumstances were so strange that it leads me to believe that there are superstitions about the holiday that you cannot find on Facebook.

Basically I still had work the next morning... but suddenly, I think at mid night, Sifu not only started getting up and cooking, he woke me up like there was some sort of emergency. I think my Si Hing was there as well. I mean the urgency was like that of a fire or someone breaking in, but instead I just sat where we usually ate.

We didn't eat around a table. There was a counter and then we gathered chairs in a circle around it but it wasn't like we were actually at the counter.

I thought Sifu was just hungry or something because he started quickly making these weird balls of flour or whatever. I made them too.

"What are these..." before I could ask "for" it was, "Moh cho, mo lei kui, nei gun ji ngau dei sic duc le."
Ie

Don't worry about it just follow along.

So he made the sugary soup and the glutinous balls and frankly, I thought this was one of the most awesome things I ever had. This would make like the perfect American food because you have the sweet thing going on and the chewy glutinous thing going on.

How do you make this?

 There's Tapioca?

There's ginger?

 What else is in here?


My Si Hing's question was different.

"You like this?"

"Yeah? Don't you? You're eating it."

"I just eat it. I don't like it."

"What the hell is going on?" was my thought.

"We just eat this tonight that's why I'm eating it."

So basically that's my Chinese Dongzhi story. And as much as people send me links or I look on Wikipedia, I still don't really understand the holiday or why I had to get up at midnight to eat Tangyuan. I'm saying the time of the eating of these things seemed to be very important. Like it had to do with spirits or something.

In England, Christmas is also very much a spooky Holiday. More about Spirits and ghosts, perhaps than it is in the United States.


Now if you tell Chinese that the Solstice is like Christmas they will say, "No no no no... different."

But actually, no no no no, the origin of Christmas is in non Christian traditions and similarly, it's the dead of winter, the greenery is hung up to thing about spring, there is eating of heavy meaty foods because you probably have to kill these animals off before the rest of winter anyway, and yeah.. it's the same thing, it just got Christianized.

So my first (and really only) attempt at passing the Dongzhi holiday onto my children was to combine holidays to save time. Again, it was a year when we did not visit my relatives in Pennsylvania. So Santa Claus (based on the Nordic Odin) would visit this house. Cookies and milk being left out is just lame. So we mad ethe Tang Yuan for Odin. Since Odin had left his eye in the pool of Mimir at the bottom of the World Tree Ygysdrassil (yeah the Christmas Tree whatever) and hung on the tree as a sacrifice (like the many ornaments hung on our fake tree) I figured what the hell. Let's leave out these balls that kind of look liek eyeballs for Odin. And Call the Tangyuan Odin's eye balls. It was pretty fun to make them. Like playing with play dough... and then eating it.


Now of course there were other times where we ate with other people during the holiday... but I didn't feel any pageantry about the holiday. Maybe there is none. I wouldn't know. I think we do have that glutinous rice flour in the kitchen somewhere. I mean it's so easy, I guess I will make them tomorrow. They have frozen ones with red bean already inside them as well.
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