By Sofina Tan, Singapore
I only began to truly celebrate Christmas when I was 16 years old. And I am glad to say that no turkey died in the process.
You see, I became a Christian at age 16 in a Hakka Church in Singapore. Hakka is a Chinese dialect that I never learnt to speak, but I did develop a lifetime love and longing for the Yong Tau Foo dish that the church members served after we sang carols in their homes.
Hakka Yong Tau Foo is a dish that comprises vegetables and various kinds of soy-based ‘yummies’ stuffed with flavoured minced meat. That includes Tau Foo or Tofu as most people know it, Tau Pok that’s like a puff, and my favourite Tau Kee (soy bean sheets).
We sang Christmas songs in Mandarin, read the Bible in the same language, prayed for the families we visited, and gave them a calendar for the coming year–which usually featured Bible verses in Chinese calligraphy.
Now I appreciate that the Chinese carols I learnt in that season of my life are not merely translations of familiar tunes like “Joy to the World” or “Come All Ye Faithful.”
I love those songs; but I believe in the beauty of being able to bellow joy, truth and the birth of Jesus Christ in one’s heart language and culture.
T’was the night before Christmas with no turkey in sight. No halls decked with coned-shaped trees or fake snow. No chocolates.
It was just a humble celebration of the coming of the Word* that transcends every language, but can be clearly understood in all cultures.
I hope my friends around the world will celebrate and express Christmas in their unique ways and languages. This will allow the world to see how rich it truly is. This will help the world to understand that Christmas does not look complete only if there’s a turkey, although I have nothing against turkeys.
Neither is Christmas incomplete unless there is Yong Tau Foo.
But perhaps Christmas is incomplete if we neglect to understand God’s love and purpose in sending Jesus Christ into the world.
Blessed Christmas, my dear friends!
How do you celebrate Christmas in your land? Comment here and email me your story. Perhaps we can compile a book that will make meaningful present for Advent in 2016.
*Jesus is referred to as the Word of God in the book of John in the Bible.