Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Asia (02/26/09)
- TITLE: The Light That Chases Evil Spirits
By Donna Powers
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I was reading when I heard a tap on my window. “Miss Janice, please come,” called Li Mei. She seemed insistent so I followed her.
“What is it, Li Mei? Is there a sick child?”
“No, Miss Janice,” she smiled up at me. “You are always so kind to think of others. I want you come to my family’s New Year’s party.”
“Oh, how nice, Li Mei. I would love to come.”
I followed her into a small house. The room was filled with many smiling Chinese faces, all bent over a table in the kitchen. They were working together on food preparation. “I thought you said this was a family party.”
“Yes, Miss Janice. This all my family. We gather from whole country to be together this night. ”
“Is this a special birthday for someone?” I couldn’t imagine an entire family gathering just for New Years’ Eve.
She shook her head. “No, Miss Janice. All Chinese like be with family this night. On the evening before New Year’s, our tradition is make jiaozi dumplings.”
I loved Chinese dumplings, so I was glad to be part of this. I walked to the table and asked Li Mei how I could help. “Ah, no Miss Janice. You are guest here tonight. I want give good luck to you. This why we make dumplings; for luck.”
“Why are dumplings lucky? I just thought they tasted good.”
She joined her sister, Xia who was folding dough around a mound of pork and spices. “Look at shape Xia makes,” she said. “This mean luck. When we eat dumplings, we eating luck.” Li Mei smiled as she pleated the dough.
“That’s interesting. Do all the dumplings have meat in them?”
“Not all. Look at others. Ming make peanut dumplings for Grandmother. Peanut mean long life. Anh make chestnuts. Xia will eat chestnut dumplings, so the child she bears will be son. All part of tradition.”
I smiled. “Do you truly believe all this, Li Mei?”
She giggled. “No, not really. But is family tradition - and I enjoy eating dumplings.”
I saw one woman putting small golden coins inside some of the dumplings and asked about it. Li Mei explained: “Those dumplings special. Coins hidden inside. Whoever bite them will have special luck this year.”
I looked around as one of Li Mei’s brothers began to pan fry the finished dumplings. The smell was tantalizing. I asked Li Mei if there were any other traditions for the New Year.
“We will eat these dumplings at midnight,” she told me. “We eat at round table, for unity.” Li Mei also pointed to several red strips of paper I’d noticed on the walls. She told me these displayed couplets: Chinese poetry with two lines of matching sounds and meaning. She then went on to relate how, in the morning, children would wake up and get Hong Bao: red envelopes, with money inside, as a gift.
“That sounds like fun.”
“You must stay until midnight, Miss Janice,” she urged me “There will be fireworks outside. The fireworks symbolize light of God chasing away evil spirits.”
I saw an opportunity. “Do you remember, Li Mei; what the pastor taught in the mission? God sent Jesus to be the Light of the world. Only Jesus’ light can truly chase away the evil spirits of sin.”
She looked thoughtful. “Yes, I remember that.”
“Li Mei, this family gathering is wonderful and your traditions are so interesting. But I want you to remember the truth. Luck, happiness and long life don’t depend on these wonderful dumplings. Those things are gifts from God – just like the forgiveness for sin that Jesus offers.”
“This is what you missionaries say, Miss Janice.”
“Yes, it is. And it is true. Will you think about it, Li Mei?”
She nodded, quietly and turned silently to her dumplings for a few minutes. “Miss Janice, there’s just one more thing.”
She laughed. “If I accept Jesus’ forgiveness, can we still eat the dumplings?”
I laughed and assured her: “This is one tradition I will enjoy sharing with you. We will eat them together.”
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