By Soon Li Wei

PETALING JAYA: Octogenarian Yong Yin gets excited each time the Chinese winter solstice festival or Dong Zhi draws closer for that is the time she gets to indulge in tang yuen, her favourite delicacy.

For the 80-year-old woman, who now resides at a charitable home for senior citizens here, the occasion also brings back fond memories of her celebrating the festival with her children and other family members.

The winter solstice festival, which falls on Dec 21 or 22 every year, is observed by Chinese communities all around the world. It is the day when the northern hemisphere has the shortest hours of daylight in the whole year. It is also the last major festival before the advent of the new year in the Chinese calendar.

Tang Yuen

“In the past, my family and I would get together to prepare tang yuen (glutinous rice balls served in sweet ginger-infused soup) for the Dong Zhi festival. We would sit together to make the glutinous rice balls but my younger children would use their creativity to make different shapes.

“Those were the days and those happy moments will never return… my children have all moved overseas, leaving me alone here,” Yong told Bernama, her voice choked with emotion.

Celebrating with senior citizens

Yong is among the 23 senior citizens residing at Yi Xing Old Folks Home here. Yong came to the home three years ago.

According to Steven Gee Yee Seng, who manages the home, the residents, aged between 45 and 96, were abandoned by their families and have no one to care for them.

“During festivals, they look forward to visits by volunteers who shower their love and attention on them. They really appreciate these occasions as they brighten up their lives,” he said.

Recently, the residents of Yi Xing had the chance to celebrate Dong Zhi early, thanks to a corporate social responsibility initiative by the staff of Summit USJ — a shopping mall in Subang Jaya — who visited the home to bring some festive cheer to the senior citizens.

Its general manager Wivien San said: “Many people think that the family reunion dinner is only associated with the Lunar New Year. But it also applies to the winter solstice festival. It’s when families get together and partake in tang yuen which is traditionally served for Dong Zhi and signifies unity and completeness.”

Kamarul Hisham Yeop Hashim (right).

She said the Chinese also believed that when a person eats tang yuen, he or she would become a year older.

Forge unity

Subang Jaya Municipal Council councillor Kamarul Hisham Yeop Hashim, who also attended the Dong Zhi event at Yi Xing, said such initiatives helped Malaysians from other communities to understand Chinese cultures better and forge unity among them.

“This is the first time I’m tasting tang yuen and I find it very tasty. I am familiar with Chinese New Year and the Mooncake Festival but now I realise that Dong Zhi is also an important festival for the Chinese,” he said. – Bernama

The ‘Dong Zhi’ programme.