The Winter Solstice is also the Chinese New Year. Additionally called Tang – Yuan Day, translated, it means round soup (“Tang” is soup, and “Yuan” is round). The phrase stands for reunion. During olden times in poor farming communities, meat was often too expensive a commodity to enjoy. This did not prevent the ability to celebrate. Tang-Yuan, served in celebration of the New Year, keeps the body warm. Sweet rice is the main ingredient of the red glutinous balls along with hot sugar-water. Another part of the custom is letting children know they get to become a year older after eating Tang-Yuan soup.
The Chinese New Year is not is not always in alignment with the U.S. Winter Solstice. Their New Year is based on their calendar, which is calculated by combining the lunar and solar movements. The U.S. cycle is the solar cycle; the Chinese use that cycle in alignment with the approximately 29.5 day lunar cycle. Instead of the U.S. custom of adding a day during leap year, The Chinese add an extra month every seven years of a 19 year cycle. As a result the Chinese New Year is a different date each year.
The basis of their celebration is honoring Heaven and Earth, their ancestors, and their household gods with a religious ceremony. Weilu or “surrounding the stove,” their communal feast, represents family unity and honoring past and present generations. Celebrating the Chinese New Year is a 15-day event.
The first day is the welcoming of the gods of the heavens and earth. For many, this day includes fasting from meat for longer happier lives. Day two is for prayers to their ancestors and all their gods. Also seen as the birthday of all dogs, the animals are treated extra special on that day. Days three and four consist of parent-in-laws being paid respect by their son-in-laws. Day five is Po Woo there are no visits from outsiders ( a year of bad luck is expected if visitors come that day), as families stay home to welcome the God of Wealth.
Day six through the 10th temples are visited and prayed to for good fortune and health; family and friends are also visited. Day seven is the birthday of human beings; farmers offer drinks from seven different vegetables and show their produce. The cuisine consists of noodles for longevity and raw fish for success. The eighth day consists of the Fujian people having a family reunion, which culminates with praying to Tian Gong, the God of Heaven at midnight. Day nine, offerings are made to the Jade Emperor. Days 10 through 12 friends and relatives are invited over for dinner; the 13th day is expected to consist of a meal of mustard greens (choi sum) and rice congee for cleansing one’s system. The 14th day is for preparing for the Lantern Festival, which is on the 15th night.
It appears this is an extra special year with the Chinese New Year and the U.S. Winter Solstice sharing moments together. Looks like a great time to visit Chinatown.
By Dada Ra
Discover Hong Kong