It’s Chap Goh Meh, but here’s a Christmas story

While workshopping Kumar’s show last week, Selena Tan brought up this gem of information on how the Japanese celebrate Christmas. I would’ve teased Naomi for not knowing this Japanese tradition but a) she doesn’t take too kindly to criticism about her lack of Japanese knowledge, b) it is a rather offbeat kind of tradition.

Before 1974, westerners in Japan who happened to be around during Christmas found it difficult to celebrate Christmas because turkeys were apparently hard to find in the shops (or elsewhere, for that matter), and so the closest thing a foreigner could pass off as a Christmas turkey dinner was a chicken dinner, and chicken dinners were easy to find at the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets around the country.

So, in 1974 a clever marketing fella at KFC decided to sell the first KFC Christmas meal, consisting of fried chicken and a glass of wine. It was immensely popular, and for some reason, Japanese locals began to think that this was a bona fide tradition, and as the years went by, began passing it down to younger generations.

These days, KFC Christmas meals are ordered several months in advance, and if you think about it, Colonel Sanders could pass off as Santa Claus.

If you think that’s weird, @bubblevicious and @tetanus point out that the annual Chingay Parade has its tradition/roots in the government trying to appease the pyromanic masses’ discontent at the firecracker ban in 1973.

Chinese New Year fashion challenge

I think it was my brother who said to me one Chinese New Year: “Why do people bother to wear dress shoes with their New Year clothes? All you do is dress up, go visiting, and take off your footwear when you go inside someone’s house. Why bother?”

So I challenge you to wear slippers or sandals or even go commando with your footwear (that means barefoot lah) when in the morrow you dress up and visit your relatives’ and friends’ homes.

They won’t notice, and you’ll go away feeling like you’ve been the rebel and bucked tradition a little bit.

Female circum… whaaaaat?

I was shocked to learn from Naomi yesterday that female circumcision is practiced in Singapore. I had no idea.

You learn a lot from motherhood forums, where Naomi stumbled upon discussions on whether to circumcise, where to circumcise, how to do it and how much is done and how much is charged.

I’ve always thought that female circumcisions were only carried out in some tribes in Africa, and that there was never any religious basis for doing so.

Further googling the subject:

In Singapore’s small Muslim community, female circumcision involves nicking the prepuce, the skin covering the clitoris.

It is markedly different from the practices of some Muslim communities in Africa and the Middle East decried by human rights activists as female genital mutilation. In those cases, a young girl’s clitoris is clipped and burned. In a few communities, all the external genitals are cut off and the remnant tissue is sewn up to leave only a small opening.

Those practices originated 1,400 years ago, before the birth of the Prophet Mohammed, says Noor Aisha Binte Abdul Rahman, a professor at the National University of Singapore.

Singapore’s milder form is viewed as symbolic of this tradition.

But anyway, I’ve always known male circumcision to be ‘compulsory’ among Muslim males, and I’ve a story of a friend of mine who’s Muslim, but whose mother managed to hide him from the circumcisor’s (is that what they’re called?) scissors until he was about eight or ten years old, when he was found out by his mosque mates, presumably when they went to the loo together.

My friend was dragged kicking and screaming to the circumcision table and given the sunat. His mother, heartbroken and guilt-ridden by her only son’s wails and pleas, bought him an Apple computer to help soothe him as he recovered.

A few years ago this friend and I were talking about computers, and he was complaining that his laptop was on the blink. He couldn’t afford a new one at the time, and said that he thought about asking his mother for a loan, but decided against it eventually, because “I think my mother will sunat me again”.

Ang Ku Kueh

ang ku

Because we need to buy these to give away, I twittered the universe and asked where I could get good ones. The answers are still coming in, and I thought I maiswell share them with you here:

  • Ji Xiang, Everton Park
  • Bengawan Solo
  • Sweet Surprise
  • Ng Kim Lee (Chun Tin Road)
  • 2nd level, Tiong Bahru Market (next to prawn mee stall)
  • Borobodur, Bedok (near Chai Chee side)
  • Molly’s (www.mollys.com.sg)
  • Poh Cheu, Alexandra Village
  • Have we lo’d enough hei yet?

    Lo hei

    We’ve lo hei’d three times this Chinese New Year, which isn’t a lot, but there’s only so much raw fish and crackers you can manage. Especially when there are pregnant women in the family.

    Still it’s great to be able to make a mess at the dinner table and say we’re conforming with tradition even though we know the practice was invented by a Chinese restaurant chef who didn’t know what to do with leftover slivers of raw fish, crackers and some condiments, and he’d run out of gas and electricity, so he wasn’t able to cook them. Or something.

    I didn’t ask my dad about this, but he seemed very into the lohei this year, looking as though he was concentrating on the task at hand (and chopsticks), even though this tossing fish and sundry all over the table business comes more naturally to him because he has Parkinson’s.