Today is the eve of Dong Zhi. Families will gather around to roll the colourful rice balls to mark winter solstice. I am lucky I had been rolling tang yuens as young as 5-6 years old and though it has been almost four decades, I still recall the fastidious nyonya grandma who lived next to my house in the kampung. You can find tang yuen recipe here.
I remembered how fussy she is with the colour and shapes of the rice balls. The size matters too. The white ones must be bigger than the coloured ones. There shouldn’t be any mourning colour like blue. The colours, including the white must be in odd numbers. So, you can either have three colours or five colours or seven colours.
I have always kept the tradition of rolling rice balls but this year, I am doing something different. We are going to celebrate Christmas early because my two sons have work on the eve of Christmas and also on Christmas day. So, we are doing it tomorrow.
Tonight, my house is so busy with them and their friends. I had cooked 6 lamb shanks which are to be made in shepherd pie. My son’s friend, Sui Thong, has helped to make a huge pot of satay sauce for our satay celup party. The turkey was seasoned yesterday by my eldest son, using only brandy, salt and pepper. My second son has stuffed the leg of lamb with rosemary and thyme. He also baked three kilograms of focaccia which he is going to make bruschetta tomorrow.
I guess my childhood tradition has been transferred to them. Though we didn’t roll the rice balls today, I have asked my eldest sister to make extra portion for me tomorrow.
So, parents, if you have young children, remember to instill tradition into them. It may seem like a huge mess or the kids may not appreciate that when they are small. But these things stay with them, and someday, these will be weaved into their lives. It is what makes each of our lives colourful, unique and special.
My two older sons baked 150 tiny gingerbread man yesterday midnight. I have gone to sleep. I haven’t helped much because they are already capable on their own.
I thank God for my childhood and the childhood I have given to my sons. It has prosper, blossom and it makes life wonderful. Thank you, God!
To all Chinese, Happy Dong Zhi. Treasure the time with your children, your parents, your loved ones…May your life be full, rounded and colourful like the tang yuen.