Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Keeping The Past For The Future

I was walking pass a stall selling dumpling, zongzi (粽子) a few days back. The tetrahedral shaped traditional treats always remind me of the Egyptian pyramids, except that its origin does not date back so long.

It is traditionally eaten during the dragon Boat Festival or Duanwujie (端午节) on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar. The festival originated more than a thousand years ago where a Chinese poet , Qu Yuan (屈原), from the Chu Kingdom (楚国) took his own life as he was in intense grief over his country’s defeat in a war. He drowned himself in Miluo river (汩罗) and since then, rice was thrown into the river to prevent the fish from eating his body.

I remember a childhood incident relating to Zongzi. Back then, we ate this festive food once a year and the treat was considered special. I was at our neighbour’s house eating dumpling with Yew and Hui, my childhood friends. Yew decided to eat the dumpling with one chopstick and stick it in like a giant lollipop. He started playing with it like a trumpet and then swinging it like a drumstick. The animated moves sent the dumpling flying up to the ceiling. The sticky glutinous rice kept it there long enough for all of us to get a good scolding from his mum. That was a fond memory of the yummy dumpling.

Today, we throw the rice into our tummy and we don’t’ wait till the fifth day of the fifth month. Zongzi has become an everyday food and its origin is gradually being forgotten. I wonder if there are many households who would celebrate the festival nowadays. Come to think of it, we may soon lose this tradition and many others as well. But on the other hand, do we really need to keep all our traditions? I am not a person who look too much into the past but many would fight to keep all the traditions they treasure.

Only time will tell….

"We don't want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker's dam is the history we make today."

– Henry Ford


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