It’s the Chinese Winter Solstice Festival Today


This year, the Chinese Winter Solstice Festival falls on Dec. 22.

The winter solstice—known as Dongzhi, or “winter’s extreme,” in Mandarin—is also celebrated in Japan, Korea and Vietnam.

In the Taoist philosophy of yin and yang, the festival marks the increase of positive (or yang) energy because the days start getting longer. 

(Yin energy is negative, dark and feminine, while yang energy is positive, bright and masculine. That doesn’t mean yin is bad and yang is good. Yin and yang are the opposing energies of qi, the continuous life force in all living and nonliving things. Yin and yang must be balanced to create a harmonious environment, which is good feng shui.) 

Dongzhi is a time for family reunion and the eating of traditional foods. One common food is tangyuan (or sweet dumplings), which are glutinous rice balls served in a sweet broth. The balls were traditionally pink and white. The women in the family would come together and roll the balls by hand from glutinous rice flour.

I remember helping my mother to make them when I was very young. My brother and all the cousins were roped in as well because my mother believed in equal opportunity.

Sadly, our family fell out of the tradition when I got older. Winter probably didn’t mean much to Mom, who lived her whole life in Malaysia and Singapore. Or it could be that it was too much of a hassle.

Today, tangyuan are available at Asian supermarkets in the U.S. and come in all colors.

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