Thursday, 22 December 2011

Happy Winter Solstice Festival !

It’s Winter Solstice Festival again, celebrated once in December 22nd every year! Also known famously as Dongzhi Festival, this is one of the main festivals celebrated by the Chinese all around the world. The most famous symbol of the festival is eating of tangyuan (balls of glutinous rice flour) which represents reunion.

Celebrated on the longest night of the year, Dong Zhi is the day when sunshine is weakest and daylight shortest. The coming of winter is celebrated by families and is traditionally the time when farmers and fishermen gather food in preparation for the coming cold season. It is also a time for family reunions. 

This celebration 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 Dong Zhi Festival is a time for optimism. 

Dong Zhi is celebrated in style. The longest night of the year is a time to put on brand new clothes, visit family with gifts and to laugh and drink deep into the long night.

History of the Festival
As early as 2,500 years ago, about the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC), China had determined the point of Winter Solstice by observing movements of the sun with a sundial. It is the earliest of the 24 seasonal division points. The time will be each December 21 or 22 according to the Gregorian calendar.

The Northern hemisphere on this day experiences the shortest daytime and longest nighttime. After the Winter Solstice, days will become longer and longer. As ancient Chinese thought, the yang, or muscular, positive things will become stronger and stronger after this day, so it should be celebrated. 

The Winter Solstice became a festival during the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) and thrived in the Tang and Song dynasties (618-1279). The Han people regarded Winter Solstice as a "Winter Festival", so officials would organize celebrating activities. On this day, both officials and common people would have a rest. The army was stationed in, frontier fortresses closed and business and traveling stopped. Relatives and friends presented to each other delicious food. In the Tang and Song dynasties, the Winter Solstice was a day to offer scarifies to Heaven and ancestors. Emperors would go to suburbs to worship the Heaven; while common people offered sacrifices to their deceased parents or other relatives. The Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) even had the record that "Winter Solstice is as formal as the Spring Festival," showing the great importance attached to this day.

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