Winter (especially December) is a time we associate with the arrival of the holidays, but countries all over the world celebrate special winter solstice traditions. But it’s not just about Christmas and Hanukkah. As the long nights of winter approach, a little inspiration can go a long way in brightening our days. Fortunately, countries around the world have found lots of fun, intriguing, and unique ways to celebrate the dog days of the season. It’s not only inspiring, but downright enjoyable. Many are age-old festivities, while others are relatively new, but all provide some possibility. And sometimes, a touch of laughter in a year when these things are extremely hard to get.
Just when you thought December would be enough to celebrate between Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and the upcoming New Year. There’s one more reason to get together and celebrate with your loved ones: the winter solstice. You may be more familiar with the winter solstice as the least sunny day and the longest night of the year. But many cultures around the world still celebrate the longest night of the year with their unique winter solstice traditions.
st. Winter Solstice Traditions on Lucia Day, Scandinavia
The Winter Solstice celebration in Sweden, also known as St. Lucia’s Day or the Feast of St. Lucy, takes place on 13 December each year. Like many days we celebrate, ancient festivals observing the winter solstice combine with newer traditions to create the holiday. season as we know it today. In Scandinavia, Lucia marks the start of the Christmas season on December 13 (the solstice in the old calendar). Especially with a procession of young women in white robes, red sash and garlands of candles lighting their way in the winter darkness.
History was celebrated as a pagan festival of lights in honor of the shortest and darkest day of the year. There are beliefs that say that demons and spirits will disturb the world and that animals can talk (unlike the early celebrations of Halloween). As people prepare for the onset of winter, threshing and cutting will be done. Especially St. Honoring Lucy, this festival included celebrations of the pagan winter solstice marked by bonfires. Delicious treats like gingerbread cookies, saffron-flavored scones, and glogg are also part of the service as part of tradition.
The modern tradition of observation began in the 1700s. It features the eldest daughter in a family who dresses as Lucia in a white dress with a red sash and wears a candle wreath on her head (electric candles came into common use today).
Over time and as Christianity spread , however, the Swedish winter solstice was brimming with the figure of Saint Lucia, and December 13 became a celebration in her honor – complete with costumes, music, processions, and ceremonies. glogg .
Dong Zhi, Winter Solstice Traditions in China
In the Western calendar, the Winter Solstice falls on December 21 or December 22, when the night is longest and the day is shortest in the northern hemisphere.
Dongzhi Festival is a traditional holiday that is a celebration of some with a long history and certain traditions.
On the 21st, 22nd or 23rd of December, this thousands of years old festival is a family celebration. And it’s called a big meal, including rice balls. tang yuan . Dong Zhi festival is a celebration to mark the end of the harvest season. The holiday also has roots in the Chinese concept of yin and yang. After the solstice, the abundance of winter darkness will begin to balance with the brightness of the sun.
The festival has been celebrated for over 2,000 years and often revolves around the practice of families getting together to make and eat tangyuan (sticky rice balls). Tang Yuan are symbols of reunification and prosperity. While the solstice celebration is only one day, the Dongzhi Festival actually lasts for 15 days.
In Chinese, Dongzhi roughly means ‘winter’s extreme’ or ‘winter’s arrival’. The festival celebrates the beginning of winter, and the date marks the turning point in the calendar where the days that follow begin to lengthen as the nights get shorter.
In past imperial times, the Winter Solstice Festival was more important, but now it remains a relatively important festival only in Taiwan. In parts of China, some families still gather to this day to have a special meal, visit ancestral tombs, and worship their ancestors.
North China Customs
In northern China, where it can get severely cold, people lack adequate warm clothing and adequate heating, so they eat hot food and drink hot liquids. People believed that Yang energy was insufficient when the days were short, and they tried to do so. Eat high Yang foods according to the principles of Chinese medicinal cuisine.
Historically, on Dongzhi day, people went to clan tombs to serve food and drink to their ancestral spirits, to clean tombs, and to work to protect them. Later in the evening they have a meeting for hot dumplings and drinks. Some northern Chinese still follow this tradition.
People eat fatty dumplings that contain meat and high Yang warming herbs such as ginger and garlic. This helps people ward off illness and disease and stay warm. It helps them adapt to the onset of winter and elevates their mood during the darkest days of the year.
Eating steaming hot dumplings with friends or family and eating them with special high yang herbs and spices is still a tradition in northern China on the day of the winter solstice.
South China Customs
Some people in Southern China and some Chinese in communities in Southeast Asia get together to cook and eat a tangyuan meal (汤圆 Tāngyuán /tung-ywen/). Tangyuan symbolizes family unity and prosperity .
In particular, they are rice balls that can be a bean paste or meat filling with cooked sweet high yang herbs. These are usually pink or white in color. Tangyuan is usually served in a bowl with a sweet soup or broth.
Along with their Tangyuan meal, they can also drink a light rice wine that may contain cassia oil. Cassia is a herb with a high yang rate and is one of China’s 10 Favorite Herbs and Spices.
Taiwanese Winter Solstice Traditions
For many Taiwanese and people of Taiwanese descent in other countries, the festival is still important. Families will go to ancestral tombs and eat tangyuan food and be able to offer tangyuan to the spirits in the tombs.
They also have a tradition of presenting nine-layer cakes to their ancestors. The cakes are made from rice flour and shaped like animals such as chicken, duck, turtle, pig, cow and sheep.
According to traditional Chinese medicine concepts, winter is the time of the year. It is important for many reasons. Mainly to rest, relax and nourish the body with high yang fat foods.
The Chinese follow the behavior of hibernating animals to rejuvenate and protect their bodies. Therefore, if possible, they rest during the day, eat foods containing ginger, and enjoy ginseng. As well as similar high yang herbs that can repair and relax nerves and relieve stress.
Origin and History of Dongzhi Festival
The origins of the Winter Solstice Festival date back to BC. Chinese concept of yin and yang, an ancient symbol of harmony and balance. In Chinese culture, there is a belief that there is insufficient yang energy when the days are short. Therefore, during Dongzhi there is food consumption corresponding to energy. Essentially, this means that foods with more yang (hot) are for consumption. To counter the yin (cold) of winter like Tangyuan. Other popular dishes during this time include mutton stew, babao porridge (also called eight treasure porridge), and jiaozi (meatballs).
The winter solstice is a cause for celebration by various cultures throughout history. It is known as Dongzhi in China. Specifically, more than 2,500 years ago, a wise man named Zhou Fong discovered it. When using a sundial that leads to discovery. The Winter Solstice Festival is held as early as the spring and autumn seasons.
Today, it is one of the most important Chinese festivals. There is even a word in Chinese tradition to celebrate this festival. He says the Winter Solstice is more important than the Lunar New Year!
Although it was a prominent celebration during the Han Dynasty. But it was also during the Tang (618 – 907) and Song Dynasty (960 – 1279 AD). This led to his well-being. Officials are enjoying 7-day holidays and ordinary people are reuniting with family members at home. Mainly worshiping gods and ancestors and paying homage to their ancestors. It is also the Changzhi Festival or Yashui.
Winter Solstice Traditions in Iran (Shab-e Yalda)
This ancient Persian festival, like many winter solstice holidays, celebrates the end of short days around December 21. It also celebrates the victory of light over darkness. In particular, Yalda, which means “birth”, is marked by family gatherings, candles (fires that originally burned all night). In particular, poetry readings from Divan-e-Hafiz (Fal-e Hafız) from which family members wish and randomly select passages, and the oldest members are given the honor of reciting poems. It’s also a feast for spending the longest night of the year.
Nuts and fruits, especially watermelons and pomegranates, are traditionally eaten – one legend has it that eating summer fruits will protect you from winter sickness. The watermelon has a special significance because some believe the shape represents the sun and eating it will prevent diseases caused by the winter season. The bright red color of pomegranate seeds symbolizes the radiance of life.
“Yalda means birth and denotes Mitra’s birth; mythological goddess of light. In winter the days get longer and the nights get shorter, Iranians celebrate the last night of autumn as the renewal of the sun and the victory of light over darkness. ”
Winter Solstice Lantern Festival, Vancouver
To honor the many cultural traditions that celebrate the winter solstice, Vancouver’s Hidden Lantern Society created the city’s Solstice Lantern Festival. Specifically, participants can participate in workshops to create their lanterns. Then, on the night of the solstice, processions march all over the city, culminating in fire demonstrations. Also, participants can try to find their way through the Labyrinth of Light. In particular, a maze of 600 candles invites visitors to let go of old thoughts and find new possibilities for the coming year.
Vancouver’s Winter Solstice Lantern Festival includes evening music and fire performances on December 21. Mainly on Yaletown Roundhouse and Granville Island.
Some years, events are also held at the Dr Sun Yat-Sen Garden in Chinatown.
In 2019, the 26th Annual Winter Solstice Lantern Festival will take place on Saturday, December 21. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and government decisions banning live events in 2020, the festival took place online instead of its usual venues. In 2021, there will be a mix of online and face-to-face events on Tuesday, December 21. What happens in person is smaller than it would normally have been before the pandemic.
WinterSolstice Traditions in Toji, Japan
Every year around December 20-23, the North Pole bends furthest from the sun, bringing the shortest day and longest night of the year. This year it is December 21. On this winter day, Japanese people will observe and celebrate the winter solstice, tōji.
The winter solstice, called Toji in Japan, has several interesting customs associated with it. Traditionally, a famous winter squash is eaten by the name of kabocha, one of the few products available. It is believed that a hot bath with yuzu citrus fruits refreshes your body and soul and protects you from diseases. It also soothes dry winter skin. And apparently, rodents called capybaras also like yuzu baths. It has become popular for Japanese zoos to throw fruit into warm waters. Especially in the water where animals get wet at the winter solstice.