The Winter Solstice Festival or “Dong Zhi” is a special occasion observed by the Chinese. It signifies the formal arrival of the winter solstice. This festival is usually celebrated by getting together with family, and enjoying some traditional tangyuan or glutinous rice balls. Perhaps one would wonder how one such as I, who spends his free time moping about in his room would know about such a thing. It’s simple, really.

I google’d it.

However, this extensive research was done following an exclusive invitation to one of the most prestigious lunch events in the Wessex Lane Halls Complex. The open invites were sent via an extensive online messaging system only one day before the event, and were directed at anybody fortunate enough to notice it. Fortunately, due to a distinct lack of social life, I saw it straight away and promptly accepted the invite.

The next day, I excitedly made my way to the venue. As I knocked on the front door, the organizer, Alicia was a little freaked out, but invited us in with a friendly smile nonetheless.

“How did you get pass the front door without the security code?” she asked¬†with a perplexed look.

I smiled and said that I had brought some chocolate bread-spread for the tangyuan, her eyes shone and all thoughts about the pass-code was soon forgotten. Good.

As more and more people started to show up, I felt a creeping suspicion that this Alicia person was about to make us work for our lunch. True enough, she soon passed around giant bowls, followed by rice flour, water and various other items. In the next hour, after a short demonstration, the large group of us was to be found standing about a table, fervently rolling rice flour dipped in water into tiny spheres.  Various flavorings was also added to the rice balls such as blackcurrant, green tea, chocolate, peanut butter and many others that would normally be considered heresy to the cultural background of the tangyuan. Then, the glutinous rice balls were boiled in a pot of water with some ginger and served straight away.

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As we made the tangyuan, it became apparent that most of us did not know what we were doing, myself included, But the longer we rolled the dough in our hands, it also became apparent that we would eat whatever came out of this exercise, because beauty is indeed in the eyes of the beholder. Fortunately, the tangyuan were incredibly delicious and everyone present ended up having a jolly good time after all.

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Tang Yuan

As I munched away blissfully on the tangyuan, I came to the realization that I was in fact now surrounded by many strangers who had suddenly become my friends, celebrating a festival that would have normally be celebrated among family. The horribly disfigured tangyuan made from our skilled hands, tasted much better when paired with the knowledge that it was part of an hour of continuous trance-like dough rolling.

Life is good when you’re among friends.

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Winter Solstice Festival at Southampton

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