Winter Solstice Celebration - How Do Chinese People Celebrate Dongzhi Festival?

Winter Solstice, Dongzhi in Chinese, is a crucial day for Chinese people and one of the most important solar terms. How do Chinese celebrate Winter Solstice? Winter Solstice celebration in China mainly includes worshipping the Heaven and ancestors, counting nine nines, eating dumplings and glutinous rice balls (Tangyuan), giving shoes to seniors and so on.
 

1. Worship the Heaven

In ancient times, the rulers of all ages need to worship the heaven on the Winter Solstice to pray for the people. This Winter Solstice celebration can be traced back to Han Dynasty (202 BC - 220 AD) and prospered in Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644 AD) and Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911 AD). In the Ming and Qing Dynasties, it was held in the round dome of Temple of Heaven in Beijing which is a round mound with implied meaning of the sky. The night before the sacrifice of the Heaven, the emperor had to bathe, abstain from meat and alcohol to pay respect.
 

2. Worship the Ancestors

In the folk, there was a Winter Solstice celebration of worshipping the ancestors. This custom is still very popular in modern times in some areas. In Tongcheng, Anhui, people burn paper money on the ancestral graves on the Winter Solstice Festival and repair the graves. Hangzhou and Huzhou people also pay respects to ancestors at their tombs.
 

3. Folk Saying of the Nines of Winter (Shu Jiu)

In the folklore, a Dongzhi Festival tradition Chinese called “counting nine nines” is popular. The whole winter is divided into nine nine-day, totally eighty-one days and the Winter Solstice is the beginning of nine nines. After nine nines, the spring will come. People have compiled a variety of slang and jingles according to different climatic conditions, landscapes, farming practices and customs of the specific nine-day. They are not only a summary of people’s experience of climate over the years, but also show people’s hope for spring in the harsh winter season.
 

4. Northern Chinese People Eat Dumplings

In North China, people eat ear-shaped dumplings to protect ears from frostbiting on Dongzhi Festival. There is an interesting story behind this Winter Solstice celebration. Zhang Zhongjing, a famous doctor in ancient China, found that people suffered from ear frostbite in the cold winter, so he ordered his followers to make ear-shaped dumplings with mutton, hot pepper and other materials that can warm body as the fillings for people. After they ate the dumplings, their ears were all cured. The Winter Solstice tradition Chinese was hence passed down one generation after another.

 See more Winter Solstice Folklore: 8 Stories in China
 

5. Southern Chinese People Eat Glutinous Rice Balls

Eating glutinous rice balls prevails in the south on Winter Solstice. Glutinous rice balls symbolize reunion in China and southern Chinese also use them to worship the ancestors and present them to relatives and friends as gifts.
 

6. Mutton Soup is the popular food to keep warm.

The custom of eating mutton in the Winter Solstice is said to have started in Han Dynasty (202 BC- 220 AD). According to legend, Liu Bang (256 BC- 195 AD), the founder of Han ate mutton on the day of the Winter Solstice, and felt the mutton particularly delicious and highly praised. Since then, eating mutton has become a Winter Solstice celebration. People believe mutton is a nourishing foods which can warm body up, especially suitable for cold winter.
 

7. Give Shoes to Seniors

Respecting the elderly is the traditional virtue of the Chinese. A Winter Solstice tradition has that the younger generations would bless the old by making or buying new shoes and socks for them, hoping the elders live longer and longer.
 

8. Treat one’s Teacher

In ancient times, the status of the teachers is very high. In the important Winter Solstice day, the old custom has that students thank the teachers for their teaching, and the teachers lead students to worship Confucius, the founder of Confucianism and the educator who created private schools. This Winter Solstice tradition Chinese has been passed down in some places of China.
 

9. A Disappearing Winter Solstice Tradition: Storing Ice

There is no refrigerator in ancient China, so people use ice to keep food fresh. In the north, the icehouse was usually repaired around the Winter Solstice and people used iron brazing to take ice from the river and store the ice in the icehouse together with various fresh fruits. After spring, the still fresh fruits are taken out and sold. Southern coastal residents were also accustomed to storing ice after the Winter Solstice for the preservation of fish for next fishing season.

Winter Solstice celebrations and dining customs vary from place to place in China. People in Hangzhou eat glutinous rice cakes; Suzhou people have wonton; some place in south China eat glutinous rice mixed with red beans; people in Shandong worship Confucius; people in Chaoshan worship ancestors and eat sweet balls…

 See more about 16 Special Winter Solstice Rituals in Different Places of China

You May Like:

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2, 500 Years' History of Winter Solstice in China

10 Interesting Winter Solstice Traditions around the World 

Winter Solstice Facts: 11 Things You Should Know

- Last modified on Aug. 26, 2019 -
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