Dongzhi Festival 2022 – Chinese Winter Solstice Festival

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Dongzhi Festival: There is an old saying that Dongzhi (/dong-jrr/ ‘the Winter Solstice’) is more important than Chinese Lunar New Year. Dongzhi has an important place in the traditional festivals of China. It is usually celebrated on December 20th or 21st, when the night is longest and the day is shortest in the northern hemisphere. A traditional holiday celebrated by many Chinese people, Dongzhi has a long history and certain notable customs.

What is Dongzhi Festival?

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Dongzhi Festival, Dongzhi, or Dong Zhi in Chinese, is a time-honored tradition that the Winter Solstice is celebrated in China. It is the day with shortest daytime and longest night in the Northern Hemisphere. The daytime in Beijing is only 9 hours and 20 minutes. The day lasts for 7 hours 49 minutes in London and 9 hours and 15 minutes in New York. After that day, the daylight hours become longer and longer, which brings people hope. So Chinese Winter Solstice Festival was once as important as Chinese New Year. A lot of celebrations and activities were held and some are still held today, for instance, northern Chinese eat dumplings and southern people commonly eat wontons or glutinous rice balls. There are also traditional activities such as worshipping the Heaven and the ancestors.

Dongzhi Festival History

China’s Winter Solstice has been celebrated since the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD). It is said that the earliest winter solstice in China was discovered by a sage called Zhou Feng when using a sundial. Since then, Winter Solstice (Dongzhi) has been an important festival in China. There is an old saying that Dongzhi is more important than Chinese New Year.

During the Tang Dynasty (618–907) and Song Dynasty (960–1279) eras, officials in the government were granted a 7-day holiday to go back home to celebrate the festival with their family and worship heaven and their ancestors.

Dongzhi Festival falls on December 21, 22 or 23.

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Dongzhi is not on a fixed day. It commonly falls on December 21, 22 or 23. In China, there is no Winter Solstice holiday.

How is Dongzhi Festival celebrated?

The main Chinese Winter Solstice traditions are worshipping the Heaven and ancestors, and counting Nines of Winter. In addition, there are Dongzhi Festival dining customs in different regions of China. Dumplings and glutinous rice are the most popular. Besides, foods like mutton, ginger, dikon which warm body up are also popular.

Worshipping Heaven

Chinese people have worshipped heaven on Dongzhi Day since the Han Dynasty. Many temples were built for this reason, including the famous Temple of Heaven in Beijing. It was believed that heaven worship would bring a great harvest and good health for the coming year.

Worshipping Ancestors

It is a tradition to worship the ancestors as part of the Dongzhi Festival. People set up incense burners in front of their ancestors’ tablets and place some food on a table in front, such as dumplings, steamed chicken, or cooked pork as a symbolic offering to their family ancestors. In some eastern parts of China, people take food and incense to their ancestors’ tombs, sweep the tombs, and pay respects to their ancestors during the winter solstice festival.

Making Rice Wine

It is the tradition to drink rice wine on the night of Dongzhi in southern China. The rice wine is made with glutinous rice or yellow rice as well as sweet-scented osmanthus. Drinking liquor brings a feeling of warmth to the cold Dongzhi festival.

Making Roasted Meat for Chinese New Year

People in the south of China usually preserve roasted meats at Dongzhi Festival. Dongzhi baked pork has become an indispensable delicacy on the dinner tables of Guangdong and Guangxi provinces during Chinese New Year.

6 Most Popular Dongzhi Festival Foods in China

  • Dumplings
  • Glutinous Rice Balls
  • Wontons
  • Mutton Soup
  • Eight Treasures Porridge
  • Daikon

In Winter Solstice Chinese, dumpling is the typical food in north part of China and glutinous rice balls are more popular in south China. Besides, people in Suzhou eat wonton, while mutton are must festival food in Shandong and Ningxia. People in Guangdong like roasted most. Jiangmu Duck, a Dongzhi festival food made of duck and ginger is popular in Xiamen.

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