|Winter Solstice is the 22nd solar term of Chinese lunar calendar. It is a day when the daytime is shortest and night is longest. [CGTN]|
Meaning the "summit of the winter," Dongzhi, or Winter Solstice is not necessarily the coldest period of winter. As the 22nd solar term of Chinese lunar calendar, the day has the shortest daytime and longest night.
It was also the first settled solar term in the Chinese history. And this dates back to before the Qin Dynasty (1046 B.C. – 207 B.C.), when the ancient Chinese celebrated the day as the beginning of a new year.
Coldness: A key word to define this period
Dongzhi kicks off the period of time known in Chinese as "Shujiu Hantian," believed to be the coldest 81 days which could be divided into nine units of "nine-days."
The Chinese character "nine," which has the same pronunciation with the word for "long," is considered as the largest number in ancient China, and was bestowed with the meaning of "maximum" and "extreme." The term is, therefore, the ancient Chinese people's way of describing how long and harsh the winter could be.
The peak of the coldness usually comes at the third "nine-days," known as the "Sanjiu" in Chinese. But when the ninth "nine-days" comes, the spring would be in full swing across most part of China.
A feast: Dumplings or Tangyuan?
The Winter Solstice might be the favorite time for a gourmet.
For the ancient Chinese, the celebrations of a significant festival could never happen without a proper feast.
Dumplings, a favorite food for many Chinese people living in the north, are an indispensable part of a feast.
The tradition of eating dumplings was maintained for almost all the important festivals in China, such as the Lunar New Year's Eve.
Mutton soup is also a great choice for many. A bowl of this hot soup, garnished with chopped green onions, would definitely drive away the chill.
However, whenever there are dumplings, there is the "dumplings or tangyuan" debate.
In the south, instead of dumplings, tangyuan, or glutinous rice dumplings are a must for many families. But traditions could be quite different even for neighboring provinces and cities.
For instance, in Anhui Province, people eat noodles on the day, while in Zhejiang Province, people cook eggs with longans and red dates.
In Jiangsu Province, many families drink rice wine tinged with sweet-scented osmanthus, while in Jiangxi Province, Maci or fried glutinous pudding is their best choice. In some cities and towns along Yangtze River, people also cook rice with azuki beans.
But whatever food they prefer, the dishes for the Winter Solstice dinner table must be nutritious, warming and healthy.
Even though worshiping ancestors used to be the most important part of the event, only a few areas in China still maintain that habit. In Guangdong Province, people still hang up paper in front of their ancestors' tombs, while in Taiwan, special nine-layer cakes are made as offerings.
|A spoon of tangyuan [CGTN]|
|A girl enjoys a bown of tangyuan in the day of Winter Solstice. [CGTN]|
|Mutton soup is also a great choice for many. [CGTN]|
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