I am actually recycling the following blog entry I did exactly a year ago as the winter solstice falls again on 22 Dec, coincidentally.
Winter solstice is a festival celebrated by Chinese everywhere, sometimes even considered more important than the Lunar New Year. What is so special about the day? Apparently, this is the last day or night that the day will be shorter and night longer. After today, the day will get longer each day and the duration of nightfall will be shortened. So the Chinese actually believe that the the Yang energy will increase after this day and the Yin energy will slowly diminish. Still, it is important for the Yin and Yang to strike a balance. Now the Chinese word, 冬至 doesn’t really help in the understanding of its meaning for the non-Chinese people as it literally means the “arrival” of winter, but actually means “extreme” in this case. Chinese have another date to the coming of winter and we call it 立冬, which often falls between 7/8 of the month of November according to the Solar calendar, while the former will fall around 21/22 December.
So today is 冬至 and what do we do on this day? The Northern mainlanders (Chinese from China) will often celebrate with slaughtering of lambs to prepare delicacies such as jiao-zi or hun-tun, both known as dumplings while the Southerners will have vermicelli and tang-yuan or glutinous rice balls. And according to mom, one will be a year older upon eating those glutinous rice balls. Wow! No wonder we don’t seem to be any wiser despite our “age”, for you simply don’t have time to grow in wisdom when you can be 3 years older within the same year! (Your birthday on the solar calendar, then Lunar calendar and also on winter solstice.) Still, I like those tang-yuan a lot, something nostalgic and very rural?…erm…very traditional. I used to insist on making them myself when I was much younger, just the part on kneading them into the shape of a ball, not the making of the flour dough. That part is solely my mom’s forte and I wouldn’t want to deprive her of her important role. And tonight, we had glutinous rice balls fresh from the fridge, refrigerated packed rice-balls imported from Taiwan.
The ready-made rice balls don’t really taste as good as the traditional white and pink/red ones. I reckon that the difference lies in the lack of warmth and “passion” in the making, well, hand-made over machine-generated mass production. But I had 4 in a bowl of warm soya milk, maybe not quite traditional here. And so I am a year older as I write this down on my blog, true enough, I realized that I don’t favour the sweet taste of the black sesame fillings in those rice-balls but preferred the mildly sweetened soya milk. I even suggested to mom that we should have bittergourd soup over the weekend, this certainly is a sign of growth/maturity(?) for one who once claimed that she is not born to suffer (literally translated from “eat bitter” in Chinese) .
Now I wonder if Koreans celebrate 冬至 and I found the Hangeul 동지 expression but no, it was not marked as a festival on the Korean calendar. But I am sure they would love this ttok-like(rice cake떡) dessert.