Celebrating Winter Solstice on 22nd December, 2023
Good Luck Rituals for an Auspicious Year Ahead
Winter Solstice Festival, or “Dong Zhi” in Mandarin, is one of the most important festivals celebrated by the Chinese. In fact, many traditional Chinese consider it to be just as, if not, even more important than the Lunar New Year.
This festival is significant because it marks the longest night of the year. On this day, the Yin qualities of darkness and cold are at their peak, but also at their turning point to give way to the light and warmth of Yang. After this celebration, there will be days with longer daylight hours and an increase in positive energy. Hence, Winter Solstice is celebrated with much enthusiasm. Everyone dresses up for a feast with their families, to offer prayers to the Gods and spend the rest of the long night drinking and merrymaking.
In 2023, Winter Solstice Festival falls on December 22nd.
Several important rituals are also observed to ensure a safe and smooth-sailing year ahead, with good harvests and abundance.
EATING COLOURFUL TANG YUAN
The most important of the rituals is the making and eating of “Tang Yuan”. These are glutinous rice balls cooked in a warm ginger-infused soup. Traditional families start their sessions of making Tang Yuan from scratch by sitting together and rolling different coloured glutinous rice dough into balls, sometimes filling them with peanut, black sesame or red bean paste.
Behind the act of eating this sweet dessert is a wealth of cultural significance and meaning. The roundness of the balls represents prosperity, togetherness and unity of the family, while the different colours of Tang Yuan are believed to each bring a different kind of good fortune wish.
- White glutinous rice balls symbolise harmonious relationships.
- Red glutinous rice balls symbolise joy.
- Pink balls symbolise love.
- Yellow balls symbolise wealth.
- Green balls symbolise good health.
- Blue balls symbolise a flourishing career.
- And purple balls symbolise wisdom.
Because of their auspicious meaning, Tang Yuan has become an iconic dessert during other Chinese festivals as well. Here is a traditional recipe for making your own:
Glutinous Rice Balls:
- 250 grams glutinous rice flour
- 1/2 cup HOT boiling water
- 1/2 cup COLD water, depends on dough consistency
- Food colouring – red, green, blue and yellow
- 150 grams old ginger, peeled and lightly bruised
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup brown or white sugar
- 2 screw pine leaves, knotted (optional)
First, peel the skin off the old ginger. Cut the ginger into pieces and lightly bruise them. Rinse screw pine leaves and tie into a knot.
In a pot, place the water, sugar, ginger and screw pine leaves, and bring to a boil. Let it simmer for 15 mins, then leave aside for another 15 mins to allow the ginger and screw pine flavours to properly infuse. Remove the screw pine and ginger pieces, and set them aside.
Preparing the Rice Balls:
In a big bowl, mix the HOT boiling water to the rice flour and mix well. Gradually add in cold water to make a smooth dough.
Divide dough into equal portions depending on how many colors you intend to make.
Add red food colouring into one of the portions. Wearing plastic gloves, knead the dough until the colour is well distributed. Continue to do the same for the other dough portions using different colours, leaving one part of dough without colour for white tang yuan.
Form each dough into long strips and using the palms of your hands, roll them into balls. Place shaped rice balls onto a lightly floured plate to prevent sticking. Cover with a cloth to prevent drying prior to cooking.
Cooking Rice Balls:
To cook the rice balls, first bring a pot of water to a boil. Make sure there is enough water to submerge the rice balls completely.
Then add in the glutinous rice balls and cook for about 3 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent the rice balls from sticking. When the balls start to float to the surface, add 1 cup of cold water into the pot, cover and continue to cook for another 1 – 2 mins, or until the rice balls float to the surface again.
Remove and place into a large bowl of cold water for about one minute. This will prevent the glutinous rice balls from sticking to one another and make them chewier.
Drain and transfer into the ginger syrup prepared earlier. Can be served hot or cold.
Note: If your family does not have a tradition of making this dessert from scratch, you don’t have to skip this auspicious ritual. You can easily purchase this dish from local Chinese restaurants or dessert shops. Get them in all the colours to symbolise the myriad of meanings!
MAKING RICE WINE AND DRIED MEATS IN PREPARATION FOR CHINESE NEW YEAR
Many traditional families also use this time to make their dried meats, sausages and rice wine so that they are ready for use during Chinese New Year, which falls on February 10th in 2024.
OFFERING PRAYERS TO THE GODS
Winter Solstice is an auspicious day to worship household deities and the God of Heaven. Tang Yuan is often offered at prayer altars to give thanks for divine protection, and to ask for blessings for the coming year.
This is the day when the Tai Sui of 2024, General Li Cheng takes on the mantle for the upcoming Year of the Dragon, and also when the 3 Killings moves to its new 2024 location in the South. It is therefore extremely important that all homes have their Annual Tai Sui and 3 Killings remedies updated and put in place before the end of the day to ensure a smooth transition into the New Year. According to the solar calendar, this day officially starts at 11.27am on the Day of the Tiger.
For those of you born in the year of the Dragon, Ox, Sheep and Dog, remember to start carrying the 2024 Tai Sui Amulet from this day onwards. Also place the 2024 Tai Sui Plaque in the SE of your home to ensure you always have his support. Those born in years of the Snake, Horse, Sheep, Boar, Rat and Ox, meanwhile must place the 3 Celestial Guardians Mirror with Chakra Protection Wheel in the South and carry the 3 Celestial Guardians Amulet as you are directly affected by the Three Killings in the upcoming year.
Many Chinese households conduct rituals for ancestral worship on this day by setting up incense burners and placing food such as dumplings, steamed chicken or cooked pork on a table as a symbolic offering to their ancestors. Incense is burnt and prayers led by the head of the household asking for spiritual deliverance and for the ancestors to keep a watchful eye on the young descendants of the family.
AVOID ARGUING ON THIS DAY!
Just like during Chinese New Year, family unity is viewed with utmost importance on Winter Solstice, thus family members should always greet each other with courteous, auspicious greetings and avoid quarrelling with each other on this day. To ensure good vibes, wear the Sky Dog or Harmony Symbol Charm Bracelet. It is also very auspicious to bring gifts of good fortune.