Today is the Winter Solstice Festival in China, we all had dumplings. My 7 years daughter kept asking why we ate dumplings in this festival. then I would like to share some information with you :)
The Winter Solstice，one of the twenty four seasonal division points，falls on the forty-sixth day after the Beginning of winter，around each December 22nd according to the solar calendar. On this day，the northern hemisphere experiences the shortest daytime and the longest nighttime and after this day，days will become longer and longer
As a traditional festival，the Winter Solstice is also called the winter Festival， the Turning of the Winter， and the Sub-winter，which had ever been quite ceremonious. Rites of the Zhou had a record of “The Winter Solstice is the day to offer sacrifices to gods and ancestors”， indicating that in the Zhou Dynasty（1046BC-221BC），people had to hold a ceremony to offer sacrifices to gods and ancestors on this day. In the Han Dynasty（206BC-220AD），this day was an established festival. Around this day，people should stop doing things；officials wouldn’t administer affairs of state until a lucky time and day. It was said that a calendar had been laid down to make the Winter Solstice the beginning of a year and the people spent this day as they did a new year. Afterwards, the calendar was changed and the Winter solstice became less important after the New Year’s Day was transferred to another day. But the Winter Solstice remained as important as the New year’s Day up to the Tang(618AD-907AD) and Song dynasties (960AD-1279AD). According to Volume 10 of The Eastern Capital: According to Volume 10 of The Eastern Capital: A Dream of Splendors Past on the Winter Solstice, “(People) celebrate and exchange friendly visits just as they do in festivals or on the New Year’s Day.” Even in modern times, people still have a common saying“The Winter Solstice is as grand as the New Year’s Day”, meaning that it is important as the New Year’s Day. Accordingly, people called this day “the Sub-New Year” as well as “Winter-Celebration”.
It is just because of these that there are many customs for the Winter Solstice similar to those for the New Year. On this day in the old times，all the local authorities and schools had a day in the old times，all the local authorities and schools had a day off；the business were stopped；the workshops were closed； people wore new clothes；presents and dinners were offered among relatives and friends. While at home，people would offer sacrifices to their ancestors and then had a dinner party. Qing Jia Lu （Records of Jiaqing Period of the Qing Dynasty）had a record that in the areas on the South of the Changjiang River，“The streets were crowded with people who carried gifts of baskets or boxes called Plates on the Winter solstice”，which was really a unique view.
Just as the old saying goes，“People eat Wonton（dumpling）soup on the Winter Solstice and noodles on the Summer Solstice”，the popular food for the Winter Solstice is Wonton，about which there are two very interesting legends.
The first legend took place during the Spring and Autumn Period (770BC-476BC) and Warring states Periods(220AD-280AD). Fu Chai, King of Wu, got dizzy with his success in defeating the kingdom Yue and thus, was indulged in the song, dance, wine, and women. But on the Winter Solstice, he had no appetite for the whole table of nice dishes of every kind. Finally, Xi Shi made a novel course of dim sum for him, which was quite agreeable to his taste. So he sang high praise for Xi Shi and inquired her of its name. “So ridiculous, so fatuous and foolish a ruler he is!” Xi Shi thought to herself, “Every day he is dizzy and clumsy.” Therefore, “Wonton，”answered Xi Shi spontaneously. From then on, this kind of dim sum,named as Wonton, penetrated into people’s life.
The second legend says that during the Han Dynasty(206BC---220AD), the Huns often harassed the border areas, among whom were the two extremely fierce leaders named Hun Shi and Tun Shi. The populace hated them to the guts, so they packed the meat stuffing with powder wrappers and boiled them in hot water. They named this kind of food “Huntun” (Wonton) in order to relieve their enormous hatred
Of course, these legends are nothing but farfetched conclusions. But it is a great pleasure for people to chatter about these anecdotes when eating Wonton. Up to now, Wonton is quite popular, which is not limited to the Winter Solstice, instead, it is available throughout the year. As for the dietary custom, it varies from region to region. For example, in the areas in the South of the Changjiang River, people eat the cooked glutinous rice mixed with red beans on the evening of the Winter Solstice. The old men always say that people should eat a bit more this day because its daytime is too long. These words sound reasonable and logical. Residents of some other places also eat Tangyuan. While in some areas of the central Guanzhong Plain, people had the custom of “paying respect to teachers on the Winter Solstice” in the old times. It was the very day for students and their parents give gifts to the teachers, help them clean rooms, and then drink a toast to them. In addition, they sat round, telling stories, guessing riddles, and singing songs together. The deep affection was really unforgettable
Why Do Chinese Eat Dumplings in the Winter Solstice Day? In the Eastern Han Dynasty, there was a famous doctor named Zhang Zhongjing. During one cold winter, Dr Zhang came back to his hometown, Nanyang. It was the Winter Solstice Day, and he saw that many people wore very light clothes and the freezing temperature hurt their ears. He felt very sorry for those poor people, and then he asked his students to set up a tent to give people a free food which he called Jiaoer. The shape looked like people’s ears. After eating this food, all the people got better. Those people appreciated Dr Zhang’s work, and then they went to ask his recipe. Dr Zhang said that he put mutton and Chinese herbal medicines in flour wrappers, and made them look like people’s ears. From then on, Chinese people gave Jiaoer a new name, Jiaozi, and the tradition of eating Jiaozi in the Winter Solstice Day has been handed down.