What is DongZhi (冬至) Festival?

DongZhi (冬至) is a festival to mark the Winter Solstice – the day of the year with the shortest daylight (aka the shortest day). It is usually celebrated around 22 December each year. Although we do not have the “shortest day” per se in Singapore, Singaporeans do celebrate DongZhi each year as a time for the family to gather together. This festival is often celebrated by eating tangyuan (汤圆), a flour/glutinous rice ball that is often cooked in a sugary soup base.

Winter Solstice - The shortest day of the year
Winter Solstice – The shortest day of the year

DongZhi (冬至) Festival and Traditions Unique to Singapore

In Singapore, DongZhi (冬至) festival equates to family. It is also a time to enjoy tangyuan (汤圆) together. Remember the sugary soup base we mentioned before? There is an added ingredient of the pandan leaf to infuse that Southeast Asia flavour.

Unlike many other celebrations in China and Taiwan, we do not make our own tangyuan (汤圆). Instead, tangyuan (汤圆) can be easily bought in supermarket and these days, they come with added fillings such as sesame and peanut (Kate’s favourite!).

Lastly, because of it being so easily accessible, tangyuan (汤圆) has also become a common dessert in Singapore.

Tangyuan (汤圆) with Pandan Leaf
Tangyuan (汤圆) with Pandan Leaf

The Origin of DongZhi (冬至) Festival

As mentioned earlier, DongZhi (冬至) Festival celebrates Winter Solstice – the shortest day or the longest night. This also means that the days after Winter Solstice will have longer days and shorter nights – something that people in the past look forward to. According to some historical records, Winter Solstice used to be celebrated as new year. Hence, DongZhi (冬至) Festival was also celebrated as a “small” new year, also known as 过小年. During this time, elders would have meals with their children and remind them that they have grown older by another year. Something that our parents still say to us today -_-

Tangyuan (汤圆) also has a meaning to it. Due to its shape and name, tangyuan (汤圆) also signifies “togetherness” and “fullness” (圆满). Red (nowadays light pink) and white (similar to Singapore colours) are the usual colours of tangyuan (汤圆).

In some parts of China, people celebrate DongZhi (冬至) by having meat dumplings. It was said that a Chinese physician was walking about town during winter solstice and he noticed many poor people suffering from frost bites. In a bid to feed them and warm them up, he created a dumpling soup which he named 驱寒娇耳汤 – a soup that eliminates the cold.

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We hope you have enjoyed our quick post about DongZhi (冬至) Festival. As my mum would always say, remember to always eat tangyuan (汤圆) in pairs – 双双对对!

Happy DongZhi (冬至) Festival everyone!

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