The Chinese Winter Solstice

Posted on December 9th, 2016 by

by Professor Nan Li

The winter solstice is one of the most important twenty-four Chinese solar terms that were established as early as the Zhou Dynasty (1046-771 B.C.)  It is also the occasion for a traditional Chinese celebration called the Winter Festival (冬节), which falls between December 21 and December 23 of the Gregorian calendar.

Ancient Chinese believed that the increasing length of each day that followed the winter solstice was attributable to an influx of Yang Qi energy returning to the land. Therefore, the winter solstice is regarded as an auspicious day.

Since the Han dynasty, (206 B.C.- A.D. 220), the winter solstice has been celebrated as a national festival by Chinese people. On this day, people feast in a rich family meal with rice liquor and a variety of delicious foods such as dumplings (饺子), sweet rice balls( 甜汤元), and noodles(面条). The Winter Festival (冬节) is a prelude for Lunar New Year (Spring Festival) to Chinese people.

Sound familiar? Before Christianity arrived in Scandinavia, the ancient Scandinavians used to celebrate the winter solstice around the Christmas time.  By coincidence, the celebration of the winter solstice is a prelude of the joyful Christmas season for Scandinavians.This year’s solstice will be on December 21st.


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