Three random thoughts from a Hong Kong millennial.
1. Confession: I feel no excitement for Christmas. At all. It hasn’t always been like this — I had considered Christmas my favorite holiday when I was in junior high school, a time where I looked up to anything part of Western culture.
I read Meg Cabot and Harper Lee, adored Orlando Bloom, listened to Linkin Park and Fall Out Boy, and stayed away from Cantonese books, movies and traditions. I yearned so badly for the warm Christmas scenes I saw in books and movies that I tried to replicate them in my family: I played Christmas carols in the house.
I forced my family to get a whole turkey one Christmas (everybody complained about the dry meat and “weird jam sauce”). I made us exchange gifts (I found the present I gave my mom under her bed the next morning). It wasn’t until years later that I could openly admit that I just do not identify with Christmas: it’s not part of my history, my traditions, my upbringing. I’m not even a Christian.
It’s also around that time I finally realized I was building my cultural identity based solely on American pop culture, obscure European movies, and English lit, just because they seemed cool. For now, Christmas will mean no more than sleeping in and having a leisurely day to myself, which, OK, I guess I’m a little excited about.
2. It also took me some time to appreciate dong jee (冬至) the Chinese festival celebrating the Winter Solstice, which is usually several days apart from Christmas. It felt like a chore to me for the longest time. Unlike Christmas, it’s not a public holiday. There are no presents, no movies revolving around it, and no one attached big ideas like “love” to the Winter Solstice.
But as I cooled down about Christmas, I gradually warmed up to all the traditions that went along with dong jee: the counting of dishes so there are the auspicious eight or 10 on the table; the inevitable bickering between grandma and my auntie; the abalone my grandma saves for special dinners; and the sweet dumplings served as a delicious reminder that our family is happily in the same room.
So, those Christmas traditions I wanted so badly to replicate? They’ve been here the whole time.
3. What I’m reading… In light of the upcoming big parties and family dinners, it’s a good time to review why, yes, we should all be disgusted by double-dippers. They really can be a health threat, via the Conversation:
“One of the most infamous examples of spreading disease while being asymptomatic is household cook Mary Mallon (Typhoid Mary), who spread typhoid to numerous families in 19th-century New England during food preparation.
Science has left unanswered whether she was tasting the food as she went along and, in effect, double-dipping. Typhoid Mary is obviously an extreme example, but your fellow dippers might very well be carrying cold or flu germs and passing them right into the bowl you’re about to dig into.”