24 Solar Terms: 9 things about Winter Solstice
The traditional Chinese lunar calendar divides the year into 24 solar terms. Winter Solstice (Chinese: 冬至), the 22nd solar term of the year, begins this year on Dec 22 and ends on Jan 4.
On the first day of Winter Solstice, the Northern Hemisphere experiences the shortest day and the longest night in the year. From then on, the days become longer and the nights become shorter. The Winter Solstice also marks the arrival of the coldest season in the year.
During Winter Solstice in North China, eating dumplings is essential to the festival. There is a saying that goes "Have dumplings on the first day of Winter Solstice and noodles on the first day of Summer Solstice."
People in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, are accustomed to eating wontons in midwinter. According to legend, during the midwinter feast 2,500 years ago, the King of Wu (one of the states during the Western Zhou Dynasty and the Spring and Autumn Period) was disgusted with all kinds of costly foods and wanted to eat something different. Then, the beauty Xishi came into the kitchen to make "wontons" to honor the king’s wish. He ate a lot and liked the food very much. To commemorate Xishi, the people of Suzhou made wontons the official food to celebrate the festival.
In places such as Shanghai, people eat tangyuan, a kind of stuffed small dumpling ball made of glutinous rice flour to celebrate Winter Solstice.
Eating mutton and vermicelli soup
In Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui autonomous region, people call midwinter the "Ghost Festival". On that day, it is customary for people there to drink mutton and vermicelli soup and eat the dumplings in the soup. They give the midwinter soup a strange name: "brain" and share it with their neighbors.
Eating rice cakes
During the Winter Solstice, Hangzhou residents traditionally eat rice cakes. In the past, before the approach of the winter solstice, every household would make the cakes to worship their ancestors or use as gifts for relatives and friends. Today, though fewer families eat home-made cakes, people there still buy rice cakes for the Winter Solstice Festival.