Parenting Tips

Friday, December 22, 2006

Dong Zhi (Winter Solstice Festival)

Today is Dong Zhi. Most Singapore Chinese will associate this day to ‘tang yuan’ – glutinous rice flour balls. Well, want to know the history of Dong Zhi . . .

Dong Zhi is a thanksgiving festival in the Chinese calendar. It marks the end of the year with a new one approaching. Literally, it means ‘the arrival of winter’. The Winter Solstice Festival is one of the most important festivals celebrated by the Chinese and other East Asians during this festival.

Dong Zhi is the day when sunshine is weakest and daylight shortest. This celebration can be traced to the Taoist belief of yin and yang, which represents balance and harmony in life. It is believed that the yin qualities of darkness and cold are at their most powerful at this time. However, it is also the turning point, giving way to the light and warmth of yang. For this reason, the Dong Zhi Festival is a time for optimism.

This day is also the birthday of the Primival Lord Of Heaven (Yuan Shi Tian Zun), one of the Three Pure Ones in Taoism. Taoists will perform rituals on this day. But it is a pity, that younger generation today is not very appreciative to this festival.

It is an occasion for the family to get together to celebrate the good year they have had. To symbolize the unity and harmony in the family, tang yuan is cooked and eaten during this festival.

‘Tang Yuan’ also means "tuan yuan" (family reunion). The round shape of the rice balls symbolises reunion for the family, the sweet soup and pink colour is for harmony and good fortune. The flour balls may be plain or stuffed.

How to make tang yuan?

  • Add cool or tap water bit by bit to one cup of glutinous flour until you can mix it to the same texture as playdough.
  • Divide the dough into small portions. For pink ones, add colouring and knead on the dough to ensure even distribution of colour.
  • For stuffings, the fillings can be gula melaka (coconut sugar) or crushed peanuts.

Alternatively, you can get ready doughs in wet markets or better still, supermarkets offer ready-packed ones with fillings of red beans, black sesame and peanut paste.

How to cook tang yuan?
  • If plain soup is preferred, just cook the tang yuan in a pot of boiling water and add sugar to suit taste.
  • For my family, I like to use dried longans for the stock. The brown-coloured soup makes it more appealing.

Either way, when the dumpling floats, they are done. Let them sink in for a short while more but do not overcook lest they become mushy.

So parents, hope you can make use of above tips to prepare tang yuan for your family. While you are enjoying the rice balls, do share the story of Dong Zhi with your children. This is one tradition and culture that we should pass on.


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