Winter Solstice, also known as “Yangsheng,” is one of twenty-four solar terms. In Taiwan, we will reunite with relatives and friends and eat glutinous rice balls on the day of the winter solstice, so what do other countries eat during the winter solstice?
Taipei, Taiwan (Merxwire) – The winter solstice is every December 22 or 23. On this day, the sun will directly shine on the Earth’s Tropic of Capricornus, making it the day with the shortest sunshine time in the northern hemisphere. After the winter solstice, the northern hemisphere has longer days and shorter nights. To celebrate the arrival of the winter solstice, people worldwide will eat exceptional food on this day to symbolize the meaning of blessing. If you are already tired of eating glutinous rice balls, try the methods of other countries and have an exotic winter solstice!
According to folk customs, the Taiwanese will eat glutinous rice balls on the winter solstice, which symbolizes completeness and abundance. Eating glutinous rice balls means growing one year older. In early rural society, before the winter solstice approached, glutinous rice would be ground with a stone mill to prepare the ingredients for glutinous rice balls. Then the whole family would roll and eat glutinous rice balls together, symbolizing happiness and reunion. Now, most families buy ready-made glutinous rice balls directly, whether they are salty glutinous rice balls or sweet glutinous rice balls; they are delicious, but be careful not to eat glutinous rice balls in odd numbers because eating an odd number of glutinous rice balls symbolizes unlucky.
Soaking soup when it is cold is believed to be something that every Japanese will do in winter, but did you know that every winter solstice, the Japanese will add yuzu to the bathtub to become “yuzu soup”? Winter is the season when pomelo is in abundance. Grapefruit peel contains a lot of vitamin C and hesperidin, which has a strong aroma and can relieve stress. Therefore, they firmly believe that “soaking grapefruit soup” can eliminate bad luck, promote blood circulation, prevent colds, and make the body healthier.
In addition, there is a saying in Japan: “Eat pumpkin during the winter solstice, and you will not catch a cold.” The Japanese word for pumpkin ends with “ん.” Japanese people believe that eating things ending with “ん” during the winter solstice can bring good luck. Pumpkin not only has high nutritional value, but it is not easy to go bad after a long time in the cold winter, and it is regarded as a good food during the winter solstice.
The winter solstice is an important festival in Korea, and it is regarded as the beginning of a new year, also known as the “small year.” Ancient Koreans believed that ghosts and gods were afraid of red, so in addition to placing red bean porridge in the ancestral hall to worship ancestors, they also put a bowl of red bean porridge or sprinkled porridge in every corner of the house to ward off evil spirits. And pray for a safe and smooth new year.
In addition, there has been a saying in Korea since ancient times that “drinking red bean porridge on the winter solstice counts as one year older.” And the number of glutinous rice balls in the red bean porridge must be the same as the number of ages. After drinking red bean porridge, you can increase one year old.
Not only Orientals but also Westerners celebrate the winter solstice. Every year on the day of the winter solstice, people will go to Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, to meet the sunrise and celebrate the arrival of the winter solstice. Since Stonehenge happens to be the location of the light and sunset of the summer solstice and winter solstice, although no one has been able to decipher this mysterious and excellent design, some people think that it is likely to be an ancient “observatory” because the direction is aligned with winter solstice sunset. Every year, tourists worldwide flock here to welcome the first dawn of the winter solstice.
The night of the winter solstice is called Yalda in Iran. Yalda means “new life” in Persian. They believe that when the longest night of the year passes, the days become longer, and the nights become shorter, which is when the sun is born. On this night, Iranians will go home early, and the whole family gathers to chat and eat candy, pomegranates, watermelon and other fruits. The pomegranate represents the blessings of having many children and grandchildren, while the watermelon symbolizes the sun, which can remove the disasters and diseases brought by winter.