The Winter solstice, also known as the winter festival, is one of the 24 solar terms in China which falls on December 22, or one day before or after it. On the Winter Solstice, the sun is directly on the Tropic of Capricorn, which means the day in the northern hemisphere is the shortest day and the night longest. As the Winter Solstice is the first term to be established, it is often regarded as the starting point of China’s 24 solar terms. Since this day marks a major change in climate, the ancient people attached great importance to the Winter Solstice, viewing it as significant as the Spring Festival.
The Winter Solstice, a festival with a history of more than 2,000 years, originated from the Han Dynasty and reached its peak in glory in the Tang and Song Dynasties. In the Tang Dynasty, to celebrate the festival, the emperor and his ministers offered sacrifices to heaven and held court meetings, and the common people held celebration ceremonies to welcome the upcoming year.
Nowadays, the celebration of Winter Solstice is mainly reflected in different eating customs in northern and southern China. In the north, it is said that Zhang Zhongjing, an eminent traditional Chinese doctor, made dumplings, whose shape looks like ears, for people to eat in order to prevent people from frostbite on ears. That’s why people in northern China today tend to eat dumplings or wonton on the Winter Solstice. In southern China, however, people prefer sweet dumplings, rice balls and long noodles to express their good wishes.