Dongzhi 冬至


Chinese Name: 冬至

English Name: Dongzhi; Winter Solstice; the 22nd of the 24 Solar Terms

Date: December 21 (22 or 23)

Sun Position: Celestial Longitude of 270°

Dongzhi 冬至
Dongzhi 冬至

Brief Introduction

Dongzhi 冬至 is the 22nd of the 24 Solar Terms二十四节气. It begins when the Sun reaches the celestial longitude of 270° and ends when it reaches the longitude of 285°. It more often refers in particular to the day when the Sun is exactly at the celestial longitude of 270°.

Dongzhi Festival is a traditional holiday in China that has a long history and specific customs. Dongzhi means the extreme of winter. The history of Dongzhi arrived in the Han Dynasty汉朝 (206 BC-220 AD) and it became important until Tang Dynasty唐朝 and Song Dynasty宋朝 when they decided to officially make a day to worship their god and ancestors. In the present day, in some regions of China, people still gather around to eat a special meal or to visit their ancestral tombs.

Dongzhi 冬至

On the first day of Dongzhi, the Northern Hemisphere experiences the shortest day and the longest night of the year, as the sun shines directly at the Tropic of Capricorn. From then on, the days become longer and the nights become shorter. The Winter Solstice also marks the arrival of the coldest season of the year.

Climatic Change

After the Dongzhi, although the altitude of the sun gradually increases, it is a slow recovery process, the heat lost every day is still greater than the received heat, so the temperature is still lower. Due to the vast territory of China, the climate landscape varies greatly from place to place.

Although the days on the winter solstice are short, the temperature on the winter solstice is not the lowest. It will not be very cold before the winter solstice, the real cold winter is after the winter solstice. Due to the huge disparity in climates across our country, the astronomical climate characteristics are obviously late for most areas of our country.

Dongzhi 冬至

The winter solstice marks the imminent entry of the cold season, and folks begin to “count nine” to calculate the cold weather. The so-called “counting nine” means that from the winter solstice, every nine days is counted as a period, and after nine periods are counted, the cold winter turns into the warm spring.

Health tips in Dongzhi

After the winter solstice, the climate in all parts of China has entered the coldest stage. People should add clothes in time according to the weather conditions and pay attention to keeping warm. Indoor ventilation to reduce and inhibit the reproduction of germs and viruses. Eat more foods that nourish the body, such as lotus seeds, Gorgon, barley, red beans, jujubes, white fungus, etc. At the same time, stay optimistic and exercise properly.

Folk-Custom Activity

Eating wontons 吃馄饨

People in Suzhou苏州, 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.

Dongzhi 冬至
wontons 馄饨

Eating Tangyuan 吃汤圆

Eating glutinous rice balls is a traditional custom on the winter solstice, especially in the south of the Yangtze River. It can be said without hesitation that “Tangyuan” is a must-have food on the Chinese table during the winter solstice. The reason why tangyuan is extremely popular is not only because of its delicious taste, but also because of the meaning attached to the tangyuan by the ancients, which expresses the people’s yearning for a better life. “Yuan” means “completeness”. Eating glutinous rice balls on the winter solstice means reunion and family harmony.

Dongzhi 冬至
Tangyuan 汤圆

Worship ancestors with Nine-layer cake 用九层糕祭祖

In Taiwan, there is still a tradition of worshipping ancestors with nine-layer cakes on the winter solstice. The glutinous rice flour is used to make chicken, duck, turtle, pig, cow, sheep and other animals that symbolize auspiciousness, and then steamed in layers in a steamer to worship ancestors to show that they will not forget their ancestors.

Dongzhi 冬至
Nine-layer cake 九层糕

People with the same surname and ancestry gather at the ancestral hall on or around the winter solstice on or around the agreed early days to worship their ancestors in the order of elder and younger, commonly known as “worshiping ancestors”. After the ceremony, a large banquet will be held to entertain the ancestors who come to worship their ancestors. Everyone drank freely and communicated with each other for a long time, which was called “ancestor food”.

Dongzhi (冬至)

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