Winter Solstice Festival
As early as 2,500 years ago, about the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC), China had determined the point of WinterSolstice by observing movements of the sun with a sundial. It is the earliestof the 24 seasonal division points. The time will be each December 22 or 23according to the Gregorian calendar.
The Northern hemisphere on this dayexperiences the shortest daytime and longest nighttime. After the WinterSolstice, days will become longer and longer. As ancient Chinese thought, theyang, or muscular, positive things will become stronger and stronger after thisday, so it should be celebrated.
In some parts of Northern China, people eatdumpling soup on this day; while residents of some other places eat dumplings,saying doing so will keep them from frost in the upcoming winter. But in partsof South China, the whole family will get together to have a meal made ofred-bean and glutinous rice to drive away ghosts and other evil things. Inother places, people also eat tangyuan, a kind of stuffed small dumpling ballmade of glutinous rice flour. The Winter Solstice rice dumplings could be usedas sacrifices to ancestors, or gifts for friends and relatives. The Taiwan peopleeven keep the custom of offering nine-layer cakes to their ancestors. They makecakes in the shape of chicken, duck, tortoise, pig, cow or sheep with glutinousrice flour and steam them on different layers of a pot. These animals allsignify auspiciousness in Chinese tradition. People of the same surname orfamily clan gather at their ancestral temples to worship their ancestors in ageorder. After the sacrificial ceremony, there is always a grand banquet.