One o’clock rolls around, and what had previously filled the table – a feast of chicken, beef, sweet rice, special bread, and stir-fried vegetables – now fills our bellies. As I begin standing up from the table, my Chinese grandmother, a sweet Hui lady in her late 70’s, tells me, “Don’t you run away now; we still have to wrap the dumplings. You are staying to wrap the dumplings, aren’t you?” Her question leaves room only for a Yes. “Wrapping the dumplings” is one of their traditions for the New Year. For her family, it’s the part of their gathering that everyone thinks is the most fun, an event that they all enjoy, and it’s a tradition that holds many special memories. How could I turn down this invitation to take part in such a special event? I assure my Chinese grandmother that yes, I am staying to wrap the dumplings.

——–

Ringing in the (Lunar) New Year in China is a nationwide celebration that includes a break from school and work, as well as an insane amount of fireworks. The Hui people don’t technically celebrate the Chinese New Year; their most valued holidays are in accordance with Islamic tradition. However, because they have are off work and the kids are out of school, they take advantage of the holiday to spend meaningful time with their families. So, though I often spend time with my Chinese grandmother and her family, this was a particularly special day, because the whole family was gathered.

——–

As we sit together after lunch, the family recounts memories from New Years past. My Chinese grandmother grew up in a difficult time when money was scarce. Because of this, and especially because her family is Hui, there were no big New Year celebrations to speak of. However, every New Year, she and her seven siblings were instructed by their mother in dumpling-wrapping. Years later, when living conditions had improved and she had children of her own, my Chinese grandmother passed down the tradition and taught her own children how to wrap dumplings during the New Year. Her son recalled that there was always one dumpling that had a small amount of money wrapped up in it, and it was exciting to see who would bite into the special dumpling and find the money!

——–

My Chinese grandmother stands up from the couch, goes into the kitchen, and brings out two big bowls. One bowl is filled with a mixture of lamb meat, and the other holds a big ball of dough. The family members gather around the table, and the dumpling-wrapping begins. While the fourth generation plays nearby, three generations take turns rolling out the dough into little circles, stuffing the circles with lamb meat, and wrapping them into perfect little dumplings. Those of the older generation pump out dumplings like pros, with little effort. The younger ones laugh together as they try hard to make their dumplings look just as good and effortless. Everyone takes a shot at helping the foreigner and having a good laugh at what they call the “American style” dumplings. After a couple of hours, the dumpling-wrapping is over, and everyone enjoys the carefully made tasty treat that brings the family together.

——–

I hope that you will join with me in praying for this family. They are four generations with treasured memories, special traditions and a close family bond, but no Jesus. As generation passes down to generation things of temporal pleasure, there is a lack of eternally saving significance. Pray with me that they will believe in Jesus and that for generations to come their family will be brought together by the powerful truth of the Gospel.