When I was small, Christmas is called ‘ang moh tang chek’ (english dong zhi) and therefore, the Winter Solstice festival naturally became the ‘t’ng lang tang chek’ (chinese dong zhi) which is translated as Chinese Christmas. Both occassions are just days apart and therefore, were both the same to me when I was small.
The Chinese Winter Solstice is celebrated on the 22nd December, 3 days before Christmas. The Chinese will make rice balls which signifies a completeness (of family, I think).
Today 19th December, a few days before the real dong zhi 冬至, I decided to let my kids had a blast playing with the dough. They love playing with the dough, making a myriad of coloured balls, some looking like planet earth, mars, jupiter and whatever their imagination allows. Does observing this tradition makes me a lesser Christian? Nope. Because this is a Chinese traditional celebrations. I feel it is important for me, as a Chinese to pass on some Chinese traditions to my sons. One has to be able to differentiate one's race and culture from one's religion.
To my non-Chinese friends, what is involved in making these balls is very simple. Mix the glutinous rice flour with water into a stiff dough. Make small coloured balls. Boil in a big pot of water until the balls float. Make a separate pot of syrup consisting of rock sugar and pandan leaves. Put the cooked balls and serve.
To all Chinese friends - happy rolling balls! And a year older.