"To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake, it is necessary to stand out in the cold.”
- Aristotle, Greek philosopher and polymath, 384-322 BCE
It is the final month of the year again! To begin, our Jewish friends will light the 4th candle on the Hanukkiah as they continue to celebrate Hannukkah, the 8-day festival of lights (Nov 28th – Dec 6th). Christians have also lit the first Advent candle and started opening the “doors” of their Advent calendars to prepare for Christmas. If you are in Europe or have European ancestry, your family may be celebrating St. Nicholas Day on the 6th. Thanks to the Dutch, the saint, known for his kindness and generosity, became the famous Santa Claus in America and then worldwide.
Instead of lamenting it being the shortest day of the year, over 2,000 years ago, the Chinese celebrated the Winter Solstice (21st) as the Dongzhi Festival. Since then, eating dumplings and tangyuan has become part of the tradition to mark the year’s turning point towards the warmer, brighter days of spring. Preparations begin in anticipation to welcome the new year.
Then, on the 25th, Christians celebrate Christmas (though the Armenian and some Orthodox churches celebrate the birth of Christ on different days.) Since most of us are familiar with the stories and customs of Christmas, here is a clip for you to explore the Dongzhi Festival. If you have the time, do watch the full version to discover about the Chinese views on the season and nature, the food, arts, etc. around this winter festival:
- Full version (~20 mins): Seasons of China: Dongzhi – Winter Solstice (full)
A Journey A Month…
Your Story. Our Story. The Human Story.
As I write, Omicron headlines are all over every news channel. Countries are closing borders, travellers rushing for the last flights home, governments reintroduced travel restrictions and considering deferring their opening plans, etc.
Twenty-four months since the world first learned about Covid-19, we are not out of the woods yet. Anxiety, fears are overshadowing this festive season. Everyone braces a chilly winter as scientists try to understand the highly infectious new variant.
While “uncertainties” is not the favourite word for anyone, it is a fact of life. With so many festivals despite the chilly winter, perhaps our ancestors are trying to pass down some wisdom to us: to appreciate life as it gives and make the best of it as we can. As a student of Stoicism, I will end this newsletter and the year with a song my mother shared with me when I was a little girl:
Que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be.
The future’s not ours to see. Que sera, sera. What will be, will be.
May this final month of the year bring you peace,
joy, good health and much happiness!
The world is fascinating simply because differences exist!
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Crossing Cultures – Beyond Boundaries