1. Origins: History
2. Well-known Eurasians
4. Traditional Eurasian Costumes
5. Hobbies, Leisure Activities
7. Festivals Eurasians Celebrate
What does the word ‘Eurasian’ means?
The word ‘Eurasian’ is formed by the words Europe and Asia, it is used to refer someone that has Europeans and Asians bloods. For example, a Portuguese and a Chinese have a baby and the baby is referred as ‘Eurasian’ instead of Portuguese or Chinese.
How can this happen?
Everyone must be wondering that how can Europe and Asia link? The East meets West? Though Europe and Asia are continents far apart from each other but still some Europeans come to Asia and these Europeans are traders. They travelled by sea in search of a better route to the new markets and exotic goods in Asia that cannot be found in Europe.
In 1498, Vasco da Gama, a Portuguese explorer found his way to India, establishing the first sea route between Europe and Asia. Vasco da Gama then made contact with the natives in India , and commerce between Europe and Asia became easier.
Therefore the Portuguese established the first Europeans presence in Asia. After arriving in India, the Portuguese also travelled to Malaya and Macau. When they were in Asia, they were encouraged to settle down and marry the natives peoples as the Portuguese were few in number. Babies were then given birth and they are known as Eurasians.
There were also other European countries that travelled to Asia and they were the Spanish, the Dutch, the British as well as the French.
2. Well-known Eurasians
Here are some of the well-known Eurasians that most of us know.
Dr Benjamin Henry Sheares (1907-1981)
Dr Benjamin Henry Sheares was the second president of Singapore in January 1971, and held the position for 10 years. In 1929, he attained the degree of LMS from the King Edward VII College of Medicine. He then worked as an assistant medical officer for two years. After that, he embarked in a career in obstetrics and gynaecology in 1931. In 1948, he became the first Singaporean obstetrician to qualify as a member of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of England.
That year, he returned to Singapore to assume the position of professor of obstetrics and gynaecology. He held many prestigious and official positions, even becoming the professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Malaya in Singapore from 1950 to 1960. This was a rare honour , as at that time this position was reserved for colonials. He wrote many journal articles and received a number of prestigious awards too.
Bruce Lee Yuen Kam (1940-1973)
TIME Magazine listed him as one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century. One of the most iconic figures of our time, Bruce Lee has a legend in both the East and the West despite his tragically short life. Lesser known is the fact that Grace Lee, his mother, was of mixed German and Chinese descent.
Though born in the United States, he grew up in Hong Kong, where he appeared in a number of supporting roles as a child. He developed a deep interest in martial arts and body-building, and return to the United States when he was 18. There, he was taught martial arts for a time before he co-starred in the TV series The Green Hornet as Kato in 1966. He also took on, in part or in full, the roles of director, producer, writer and action choreographer in some of the few movies he starred in before his death in 1973.
Most of the Eurasians are Christians. Beside attending Sunday Mass or services, and following Christian rites of passage, Christianity is very much part of their cultural upbringing and daily life.
While most Eurasians, especially those of Portuguese and Spanish ancestry, are Catholics, there are a number of Anglican and Protestant Eurasians, who are generally from English and Dutch or other European backgrounds. In recent years, some Eurasians have also embraced Islam and other faiths, usually due to marriage outside the community.
There are seven Sacraments in the Catholic Faith, which are rites meant to symbolize or confer grace.
The ritual of immersion in water or sprinkling water over a person’s head symbolizes the spiritual rebirth of the person.
A laying of hands and blessing by the bishop as the person affirms belief in the Christian faith.
Also known as Holy Communion, the person partakes of bread and red wine, which represent the body and blood of Christ.
The sinner repents and confesses wrongdoing to reconcile him or herself with God.
Anointing of the Sick
Prayers and penance for those dying of age or sickness to strengthen them and to prepare them for a happy passage to the hereafter.
The person chooses to dedicate his or her life to serving the Church.
A sacred lifelong union between two persons.
A Christian Life
Apart from observing the Sacraments and attending Mass regularly, one of the most important features of the Christian faith is prayer. Christians may pray collectively as part of the Mass, to give thanks before a meal (saying grace), praying for sick friends, relatives, family and privately as part of their personal relationship with God. Catholics are not supposed to eat meat on Fridays and fast on certain days as appointed by the church.
Christians try to live in accordance with the teachings in the Bible, which they hold to be the Word of God. While the Bible is generally referred to as one Book, it is in fact a compilation of many writings, which are grouped into separate ‘books’ of the Bible. It is typically divided into two sections, called the Old Testament and the New Testament.
The Old Testament was written mainly in Hebrew with some Aramaic writings, and is also the sacred scripture of the Jewish faith. The New Testament, written after the birth of Christ, was written in a language created by combining several dialects of Greek, it was the lingua franca of the period. There are also several books, for which there is some dispute over whether they are part of the Bible that the Catholics accept as deuterocanonical (second canon) but the Protestants rejected as Apocrypha. These were usually written after the accepted texts for the Old Testament but before the time of Christ.
The Lord’s Prayer
The Lord’s Prayer is the best known prayer in the Christian religion, given by Christ in response to his disciples’request for guidance on how to pray.
The prayer can be found behind the two flagpoles on the walls. It can also be found in the book of Matthew 6:10-14, the book of Luke 11:2-4. Both books are in the New Testament.
Important Christian Symbols
The most important symbol in Christianity is the cross or crucifix (a cross with a figure of Christ on it). It is a visible reminder of the crucifixation, death and resurrection of Christ and thus a symbol of God’s love.
It is a custom in many Christian denominations for believers to cross themselves in order to be closer to God and to seek His blessing. The order of the actions and the way the hand is held may differ according to whether the person is Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or from other denomination.
The dove has been a symbol of peace since the time of the Old Testament. It also represents the Holy Spirit.
The lamb symbolizes Christ as the Lamb of God, and the Church is also referred to as God’s flock.
The rosary is a string of beads used in a traditional Catholic prayer known as the Rosary, which combines prayer and meditaion.
4.Traditional Eurasian Costumes
The Eurasian men wear shirt that are normally made from wool or linen, hemp or silk. The shirt has a low neckline, full sleeves with no cuffs and sloped gently out from the shoulders.
Trousers became common during the Regency era. The trousers had a high waist that came up at least to the navel. They were drop front and were held up by means of suspenders. They were worn much looser than pantaloons though they were often fitted down at the ankles, or onto the shoes. Trousers could be made of wool, linen or cotton.
It is a piece of clothing worn by women and girls which covers her body and extends down over her legs. Skirts tracing back from the 1850’s into the 1860’s could measure 12 to 15 feet in circumference. Toward the end of the War, the skirts took on a more elliptical shape, with more fullness falling toward the back. This would continue, and later lead into the bustle. Fine dresses would have skirts embellished with ribbon, braid or ruching. Some had flounces sewn onto an underskirt, or were layered to form a flounce. Overskirts could be drawn up to reveal the underskirt or even a fancy peticoat. Skirts were often lined. The hem was usually several inches deep, often of a different fabric, probably scraps from previous sewing projects. The hem edge finish would often include horsehair braid which helped prevent wear and fraying.
Bermuda shorts were created at the beginning of the 20th century by British military forces in London. The British military wanted their personnel appropriately, but lightly attired for duty in tropical parts of the Empire.
Before the "standard issue", troops were already cutting short their trousers up to the knees to get some heat relief. There were British Regiments in Bermuda where civilians started copying the military shorts.
Men have accepted Bermuda shorts for leisurewear by 1950 and often seen paired with sport coats.
Jeans are casual trousers made from strong blue demin which is durable. The word 'demin' probably was named after a French material, serge de Nimes: serge (a kind of material) from Nimes (a town in France). Jeans are usually dyed with indigo, a dye taken from plants in the Americas and India which makes the jean cloth a dark blue colour.
It is a cotton shirt with short sleeves and no collar or buttons. The origins of T-Shirt traced back to WWI when American troops noticed European soldiers wearing a comfortable and lightweight cotton undershirt during the hot and humid European summer days. Compared to the wool uniforms that the American soldiers wore, these undershirts were cooler and more comfortable and they soon became popular among the Americans. Due to their simple design, these shirts became known in the USA as "T" shirts or what we know as "T-Shirts" now.
5.Hobbies, Leisure Activities
Smiling faces, having high tea with friends and neighbours, glasses raised for toasting and party hats are forms of Eurasian’s idea of fun.
Social Gatherings, Parties, Songs and Dances
Celebrations are times where families and friends have fun together. Eurasians are also not excluded, they are very sociable and they would always be seen with friends. One thing that comes to mind of a Eurasian is their lavish celebrations at year-end, the New Year’s Eve Ball. This celebration requires much preparation to be done because Christmas, that they always longed for, is just a few days before the New Year celebration. During these parties and celebrations, the place is filled with laughter, a huge variety of Eurasian cuisine is also served on these occasions.
Since the Eurasians have a Western heritage, it meant that they love songs especially from live bands. Dances like waltz,cha-cha, foxtrot and other ballroom dances were common as well, but one dance stands out as something uniquely Eurasian: The Branyo.
The Branyo is a mixture of the Malay dance, ronggeng, and the Portuguese folk dance. It is danced at most happy occasions. The Portuguese link is no surprising because they are the first European settlers in Malaya. Men wear western attire while women wear the baju kebaya (a traditional Malay costume for the females) or also known as the batik attire. They will have to carry handkerchiefs too.
In Singapore, these ballroom dances used to held at the Victoria Memorial Hall. Couples did not dance with the same person the whole night, instead the men only danced with their chosen partners for the first, middle and last dances. For the dances in between, they would dance with someone else.
In Asia, Eurasians have frequently excelled in sports, it can be seen by watching the Asian Games and most of the contestants are Eurasians. In Singapore, Eurasian athletes did not specialise in any one sport. Instead, they indulged in all types of sports, for the sheer enjoyment of it and not necessarily for winning as having fun and gaining experiences from the competition is the most important. But still, who doesn’t want to win medals for their country? Holding up a medal or trophy at the end of the match can be a motivating factor for the athletes to do well.
Of all the sports that the Eurasians play, some of them are played widely in Europe and it is not surprising. Those are cricket, football, hockey, rugby, shooting, athletics, etc. In fact, the Singapore Recreation Club started out as a sports club that was exclusive to Eurasian men. Eurasian women were only allowed in the 1930s. Today, membership is open to all races and both men and women.
Over time, the women were not content to simply wait in the car or remain at home while their husbands spent an active afternoon out on the field with their friends playing sports. They wanted to be more active like the men, so in 1930, the Girls’s Sports Club was formed specially for the women.
As Eurasians often live in ethnic enclaves, they shared close ties and many of these informal ‘fetes’ are ‘open-house’, which anyone can join. It is also very common for Eurasians to hold venue events at clubs.
Singapore Recreation Club
It was built in 1883, the club started as a place for Eurasians to participate in team sports. It then developed into a focal point for social and recreational activities as well as sports for the Eurasian population. It was also a place to hold activities and gatherings, allowing families to get together and strengthen social bonds.
The Girl’s Sports Club
It began its existence as the Goldburn Sports Club. It was a Sporting hub for women, and unusual for it time, encouraged their active participation in sports.
The Eurasian Association
It was founded in 1919 and dispersed during the Second World War before regrouping in 1947. Cricket and hockey were popular sports there. In this club, you will get to know more information about the Eurasians and a tour guide around the place would be provided. One interesting thing is that the current President of Singapore is just living opposite the Eurasian Association.
Literature & Arts
Apart from singing and dancing at parties, Eurasian also found time for more serious involvement in the arts, drawing on their rich cultural background for inspiration and exploring their complex hertitage.
The search for identity, being privy to two rich heritages, the feeling of being different… all these are fodder for Eurasian writers. They often struggle to bridge their multiple cultures and come to terms with the prejudices left by the colonial heritage in their writings, or examine their unique community and its place in society.
However, it is difficult to find some of these works, particularly in cultures where there is a long and rich literary tradition in the native language, such as India and China, or in non-British former colonies where the main language used is French, Portuguese or another language.
Some of the prominent Eurasian writers are:
Matt Kelley. Born to a white father and Korean mother. He is the Founder, President and CEO of the MAVIN Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to multiracial youths and families. For more information about this organization, you can visit the website at www.mavin.net
Rex Shelley. He has won a number of awards from the National Book Development Council of Singapore for his novels depicting vivid historical portraits of the lives of the Eurasians of Singapore and Malaya
Henrique de Senna Fernandes. He is considered Macau’s greatest literary artist. His Portuguese novels have been translated into Chinese, and at least two were made into movies: a Portuguese drama Amor e dedinhos de pe (Love and Tiny Toes) in 1991, and a Chinese movie The Bewitching Braid in 1995.
Kim Lefevre. She wrote two autobiographies in French, providing insights into the first 25 years of her life as a French-Vietnamese child in Metisse Blanche (White Metisse), and her return to Vietnam 30 years later in Retour a la saison des pluies (Return to the Rainy Season).
As long as there has been contact between Asians and Europeans, the East has always been considered exotic and fascinating, particularly during Victorian times. It is common to find Oriental motifs and designs like plants and flowers in many beautifully crafted pieces of traditional European Furniture from that time.
Religion and Art
The Christian faithe has inspired much artwork in various media, the best known of which are Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting of The Last Supper in the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan and Michelangelo’s paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, Rome. There are also many other paintings and statues of saints and scenes from the Bible, which also provided much inspiration for classic works of literature such as Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost.
Goa, with its strongly Hindu heritage and long history with the Catholic Portuguese, brought together the styles and preference for bright colours of Hindu artists and the Christian imagery and architecture of the European missionaries. The combination was initially criticized by the Portuguese clergy who ordered the work, but eventually they became accustomed to it. Indian imagery such as tropical flowers and crocodiles were incorporated into later icons and churches, while the Hindus themselves were not averse to adopting European art techniques in their new temples.
Modern Eurasian Art
Besides the inevitable cross-cultural pollination that occurs when artists get inspired by works from other cultures, there are also some Eurasian artists who find inspiration in their heritage, both good and bad, and reflect this awareness of their identity in their work.
The ingredients as well as cooking styles to prepare Eurasian cuisines are drawn from all the regions that each community has come into contact with, directly or indirectly, with the Spanish and Portuguese bringing items like tomatoes, peanuts and pineapples from their transatlantic voyages to add to the local flavourings.
Here are some essential ingredients that must be present Eurasian cuisines:
Tamarind (Assam). Used to add sourness to a dish. May be substituted with vinegar or lime juice.
Belachan. Dried fermented shrimp paste. A popular, strong-smelling condiment used mostly by Eurasians, Peranakans and Malays.
Chilli. Whether fresh, dried, large, small, red, green, ground into a paste or whole, chillies are indispensable to the Eurasian chef.
Coconut. Grated and added to desserts or squeezed for coconut milk.
Garlic and Onions. It’s best to keep a fair quantity of these stock, both sliced and minced.
Rempah. Herb and spice paste fried in oil, used for thickening and seasoning curries. Ingredients may include onions, chillies, belachan, candlenuts (buah keras), lemongrass (serai) and other spices.
There are many other more spices like cinnamon, cloves, fennel, nutmeg, pepper, turmeric and the list goes on…
Did you know kaya, a popular local jam, is first made by the Eurasians?
Here are some of the Eurasian cuisines recipes.
Eurasian Baked Potato
A Eurasian Baked Potato Delight
800 grams potato, boil till cooked. Smashed it with a fork
1 teaspoon Salt or to taste
1 teaspoon Pounded Black Pepper
10 pips Pounded Raw Garlic
5 strings of Coriander leaves, cut the stems finely and shred the leaves
Line a tray with banana leaf or greased a tray
In a bowl, mixed all ingredients.
Then poured into the greased or banana lined tray
· ½ lb pork
· 4 teaspoon oil
· 2 tablespoon chilli powder
· 2 tablespoon tumeric powder
· 2 tablespoon mustard
· 4 tablespoon vinegar
· Add salt and sugar to taste
· 2 large onions
· 12 shallots
· 7 cloves of garlic
· 2.5cm piece ginger
· 1 candle nut
· 15 pieces of fresh chillies instead of chilli powder and blended with onions, garlics and gingers.
Heat oil and fry ground ingredients till fragrant. Add pork and salt and fry over high heat over few minutes. Mix the chilli powder with tumeric powder and add a little water to form a smooth paste, then add it to the meat. Stir well, add a little then cook over low heat. When cooked add in mustard, sugar and vinegar. Stir and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Add garnish before serve.
- Pasar Malam Besar
- The ‘Pasar Malam Besar’ is the biggest Eurasian event in the world. It is annually held in The Netherlands, and functions as the most important platform of Indo culture. Established in 1959 it is one of the oldest festivals and the fourth largest grand fair in The Netherlands. It is also the annual event with the highest number of paying visitors of the Dutch city of The Hague. Since 1993 it consistently welcomes more than 100,000 visitors. The name ‘ Pasar Malam Besar’ is derived from the Indonesian and Malay language and literally means ‘Large Evening Market’.
Every summer the ‘Pasar Malam Besar’ is raised on its dedicated fairground, called the ‘Malieveld’, close to the central train station of The Hague. 22.000 sqm of festival terrain and many, mostly Indo, volunteers will facilitate visitors from both the Netherlands and abroad. The festival hosts three popular food courts, a culinary theatre, many large to medium stages for performance art, workshop areas, areas for lecture and interviews, market areas, as well as specific fair areas for trading merchandise