Today is Dongzhi or Winter Solstice Festival. This is a festival celebrated by the Chinese on or around December 22 every year. For countries in the northern hemisphere, the winter solstice has the shortest day and the longest night of the year. This phenomenon is more obvious further north. After the winter solstice, the northern hemisphere enters its coldest period. From that day onwards, people in China divides the next 81 days into nine periods. The coldest days begin with the third period. After the nine periods, spring begins and farming begins again.
The festival is a time for families to get together. The most important activity is the making and eating of tangyuan which are balls of glutinous rice symbolizing family unity and prosperity. The balls, which may be plain or stuffed with condiments, are cooked in a sweet soup. A lot of Chinese in Malaysia also prepare and eat the tangyuan coated with peanut and sugar.
Many Chinese, especially the elderly, insist that one is “a year older” right after the Dongzhi. Oh dear, that means I will be one year older tomorrow. No wonder more and more white hair are appearing on my head….at this rate, I will look like “pehmo” (white hair) in a couple more years!