Winter Solstice Festival

Winter Solstice, also known as Winter Festival is an astronomical phenomenon that marks the day with the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year. In East Asia, the winter solstice is celebrated as Dongzhi Festival or Tang Chek (in Hokkien).

During the Zhou and Qin dynasties in China, Winter Solstice was regarded as the starting point of a new year. People began to celebrate Winter Solstice as a festival during the Han Dynasty (202 BC - 220 AD) and they exchanged various gifts during the festival. During the Tang and Song Dynasties (618 - 1279), the emperors worshipped heaven and their ancestors on Winter Solstice and pray for a good harvest for their people. By the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368 - 1911), it has become a custom for the emperors to worship heaven. Heaven worshipping by the emperors contributed to the construction of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. The Temple of Heaven was constructed in 1420 for Heaven Worship Ceremonies, during the reign of Emperor Yongle of the Miing Dynasty and was rebuilt during the reigns of the Ming Emperor Jiajing and the Qing Emperor Qianlong. The temple was opened to the public as a park in 1988.

During Winter Solstice, the most essential and popular food is dumplings, especially in northern China. In the south, sticky puddings (sweet dumplings) and Tsampa are popular. In Malaysia, the Chinese who celebrate this festival will offer “kueh ee’ (in Hokkien) or tang yuan (in Mandarin) during their prayers. Tang yuan are glutinous rice flour shaped into balls to signify completeness and prosperity. The rice balls in various colours - white, pink, yellow and green, are served in syrup. White rice balls signify abundance while pink rice balls signify good luck. Yellow and green rice balls are to attract the children.