Winter Solstice—“the Day with the Shortest Daytime”
Winter Solstice(Chinese：冬至 dōng zhì) is the 22nd solar terms. The day of Winter Solstice, when the sun is directly overhead in the tropic of capricorn, it is the shortest daytime of the year in the northern hemisphere. Therefore, the Winter Solstice is also called “the day with the shortest daytime”. Since ancient times, people have attached great importance to the Winter Solstice. This day is regarded as a significant solar term to celebrate. There is even a saying that “the Winter Solstice is as important as the Spring Festival”. The date of Winter Solstice is December 21st or 22nd each year depending on the movement of the sun. In 2021, The Winter Solstice starts from 21th December and ends on 4 January.
The Nine Periods(of Nine Days each)
After the Winter Solstice, the northern part of China is about to enter the coldest period of the year-the nine periods (of nine days each). By the method of counting the nine periods of nine-days, people record the cold weather days. From the Winter Solstice to the next Spring Equinox, there are 81 days in total. These days are divided into nine periods of nine days. The first nine days is called the “1st Nine”, the second nine-days is called the “2nd Nine”… and so forth, after counting the nine periods, spring will come.
“October first, the Winter Solstice, every family eats dumplings”. In northern China, there is a custom of eating dumplings on the Winter Solstice. It is said that this custom has something to do with Zhang Zhongjing, the medical sage in the Eastern Han Dynasty. One winter, when Zhang Zhongjing resigned and went back to his hometown, he saw that many people’s ears were frostbitten, so he wrapped the chopped mutton and cold expelling herbs with dough to make Cold-dispelling Jiaoer Soup for the people to eat. After having the soup, the people recovered from frostbite. “Jiaoer” is the dumpling we eat today.
In the north, dumplings are eaten, while in the south, Tangyuan is often served on table. There is a saying that “after eating Tangyuan, you will be one year older”. A bowl of soft glutinous sweet Tangyuan echoes with people's good wishes for reunion and fulfillment.