Customs of Winter Solstice in Taizhou

( | Updated: 2019-01-23

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The Winter Solstice is among the twenty four solar terms of the Chinese lunar calendar, created by farmers in ancient China. As it does not fall on a certain day, like the Qingming Festival, it is called an "unfixed festival". On that day, the sun is directly above the Tropic of Capricorn, also known as the Winter Solstice Line, so Taizhou has the shortest day and longest night in the northern hemisphere during winter.

After the Winter Solstice, the sun slowly moves to the Tropic of Cancer, and therefore Taizhou approaches spring from winter. As the days are slowly lengthening and nights are gradually shortening in the northern hemisphere, there was an ancient saying that "the Winter Solstice marks the beginning of Yang (sun)," meaning that starting from the Winter Solstice, Yang-energy slowly rises.

As a Taizhou saying goes, "Winter is not really cold until the Winter Solstice. Therefore, the Winter Solstice is the signal of the real cold winter. Apart from the Spring Festival, Taizhou natives attaches importance to the Qingming Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival, the Mid-autumn Day and the Winter Solstice. Along with these festivals, they reflect the end of a year.


Sanmen Winter Worship [Photo/]

For Taizhou natives, the Winter Solstice is as important as the Spring Festival, and elders take the occasion seriously. Taizhou natives treat it as a minor New Year's Day. On the day of Winter Solstice, the farming work has been finished, so people have time to worship their ancestors and have a good meal with their family, while enjoying the longest night of the year.

It holds a special meaning for people in Taizhou. The night is reserved for  the reunion of their family, so members far away hurry back home before the day if possible. Social interaction will be postponed afterwards as well. The whole family has dinner together that night.

According to Taizhou natives, they become a year older after having dinner on Winter Solstice, which they refer to as "adding one year". The elders say that there were more customs on that day in the past, and the most significant activity of the day previously was the winter sacrifice, in which all of the people, old or young, gathered to offer sacrifice to gods and ancestors.

Tofu is indispensable in the sacrifice. As the proverb goes, "a piece of tofu on the Winter Solstice makes you rich". In fact, apart from Taizhou, it is common for people in other places south of the Yangtze River to follow the folk custom of eating tofu. This differs from the Qingming Festival tradition of people offering celery, reflecting the old saying of, "Celery in spring and tofu in winter for sacrifice".

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