As the longest night of the year is a time for optimism. It an fall anywhere between December 20th and 22nd. (12/22/2007, 12/21/2005)
Dōng Zhì, the Winter Solstice, is the “shortest day of the year”. The Chinese usually celebrate dōng zhì is usually celebrated on the longest night of the year. . . and (as with virtually every Chinese holiday I tell you about) it is a time for family reunions and special food. Farmers and fisherman are especially celebrating after preparations for the cold season.
By at least 500 BCE, the Chinese knew the date of the Winter Solstice by observing the movements of the sun with a sundial
Traditions for this holiday – like every other vary considerably. In Northern China, many people eat dumplings, dumpling soup, or mutton. These are all hot Yang foods which warm the body and dispell the cold of Yin. In Southern China, some eat red-bean and glutinous rice to drive away ghosts and other evil things. Noodles are popular in many areas. Starting tomorrow, daytime starts to get a little longer again, or as the Chinese say "every day gets longer by the length of a thread." Noodles made specially for the festival are called "Long Thread Noodles".
In Henan (in Central China) it is tradition to eat Chinese dumplings (jiǎozi, 餃子) on this day. Children are told that if you don't eat dumplings on that day, their ears will be frozen and drop down. Evidently the BBC repeated this tidbit December 21, 2005! (My children are covered – they had dumplings for a snack on the 21st and as part of breakfast and lunch on the 20th!)
According to the Hong Kong Tourism Board:
Dōng Zhì celebrations can be traced to the Chinese belief in yin and yang, which represent balance and harmony in life. It is believed that the yin qualities of darkness and cold are at their most powerful at this time, but it is also the turning point, giving way to the light and warmth of yang. For this reason, the Dōng Zhì Festival is a time for optimism.Astronomy Pictures of the Day
- 22 December 2007: Tyrrhenian Sea and Solstice Sky is a beautiful solstice composite with some explanation of the science on the same page.
- 22 December 2006: The View from Stereo Ahead
- 21 December 2005: Sunrise by the Season shows the sun rising in a Greece at Summer Solstice, Equinox, and Winter Solstice. It might be helpful in explaining how the daylight is longer and shorter.
Original References include:
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Last updated: 22 December 2007