Monday, 22 December 2014

Celebrating Tang Chek (冬至)

The Winter Solstice, or Tang Chek (Dongzhi, 冬節), is one of the most important festivals celebrated by our Hokkien community. This year, the festival falls on 22 Dec 2014, which is the date when the sun, as observed from the ground, is seen to move into the 22nd solar term of the Chinese luni-solar calendar which marks the winter solstice.

It so happens that this year, the date coincides with the first day of the Chinese 11th lunar month. This doesn't occur often - that Tang Chek and the start of a lunar month falling on the same day - and the last time it happened was in 1995. And before that, in 1984.

What I did this year at Tang Chek was to prepare for the worship at home early in the morning. We did not cook the glutinous rice balls as a friend had told us before hand that she would be giving us some.

Previously before my aunt had passed away, my wife and aunt would have spent the previous evening mixing and colouring the dough before pinching it into small pieces and rolling them up into balls.

So this year, like last year when we were not allowed to roll the rice balls on account of my aunt's passing within a calendar year, we had ours prepared by outsiders. We simply offered the rice balls in bowls as worship items to our family deities.

Having finished with this yearly ritual at home, I then made my way down to my clansman association, the Swee Cheok Tong Quah Kongsi (檳城瑞鵲堂柯公司) in Carnarvon Lane, to join in our annual Tang Chek homage to our Kongsi's resident deities and ancestral altar.

The worship here at the Kongsi would be more elaborate than the one we have at home. Normally for this occasion, there would also be a whole roasted pig offered at the ancestral altar. At the end of the worship, the pig would then be cut up and distributed to the Kongsi's trustees.

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