Hainanese Customs You Didn't Know: Making “Lap” in Leap Months of Leap Years to Honour Elders

fulfill filial piety during leap months in leap years

It is a traditional custom of the Hainanese people to fulfil their filial piety by making "lap", or Hainanese rice dumplings in leap months of leap years. In the leap months of leap years, married daughters will make "lap" and send them to their parents’ home. “Lap” is meant to hold good luck and bring it back to the married daughters’ parents, wishing the elders good health and peace, and adding to the longevity of their parents. Elders, on the other hand, send the Hainanese Triangle Kuih to their daughters as a token of love and affection.

According to Chinese customs, a leap month is an extra month in a year that may adversely affect the elders, hence the custom of 'adding longevity' to parents. Firstly is to bless the parents with good health, and the second is to make up for the luck of the elders.

"Lap" refers to the basket in the Hainanese dialect, which means to "lap" (catch) one's luck. Married daughters make "lap" and bring them back to their parents' home to increase their luck and longevity, while mothers return the Hainanese Triangle Kuih to their daughters to express affection.

“Lap” is similar in shape to the Malay rice dumplings (Ketupat), a common dish for Eid, except that “lap” is cooked in woven coconut leaves containers while the Malay rice dumpling in woven palm leaves containers. Once the coconut leaf containers are ready, the ingredients could be filled into the containers.

The filling is similar to rice dumplings, but with a completely different flavour. “Lap” is usually filled with rice, pork, shiitake mushrooms, dried shrimps and so on, but different ingredients may be used depending on one's taste. It is recommended to fill the dumplings only to 90% full to avoid overflowing during the cooking process.

A major taboo in eating "lap" is that it must not be cut with a knife, as it is equivalent to breaking the relationship, and the coconut leaves must be unravelled layer by layer to signify the difficulties and misfortune will be slowly torn apart.

There may be various stories about “lap” and the Hainanese Triangle Kuih, but rather than finding out which one is more accurate, most importantly, it is a way for people to convey their love and respect to the elders through the traditional pastries. With every bite of the savoury rice dumpling in your mouth, you engrave your parent’s kindness in your heart.

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