The winter solstice has always been a peculiar little holiday for me. When I was growing up we celebrated two major festivals (read: the whole family gets together and there is major feasting). First is the lunar new year (过年) which is a big national holiday in Singapore and celebrated by every Chinese person I’ve ever met. Then there is this other little festival celebrated on the night of the winter solstice (冬至), that seems to be a quirk of my paternal family and particularly my paternal grandmother who was matriarch, chef, and incidentally primary caretaker for me growing up. It’s peculiar because despite the fact that no one else I knew seemed to celebrate this for us this festival is of more significance than the lunar new year (as my grandmother used to say “过冬比过年重要”). We hail from a little city (开平) in Guangdong (广东) so maybe it’s a regional quirk. Anyway for me the winter solstice always brings with it fond memories of stuff splattering in the wok, smells of spices and cooking sauces, the anticipation of delicious dinner, the family gathered around the table, and the quintessential 汤圆, little round glutinous flour dumplings that in the phoneme and symbol laden Chinese language symbolise 团圆 or family unity. So today I am especially happy to be in a place where I am able to ponder my family fondly, if a little longingly. We haven’t celebrated the solstice like that in the 12 years since my grandmother died. But I feel like it’s time for me to continue the tradition with a modern spin, pondering my real blood family, celebrating with the friends who are local family, and enjoying homemade 汤圆 with some apple cider. Happy solstice.