Winter Solstice (冬至, pronounced "dong jeet" in Cantonese) is the shortest day of the year. In Chinese culture, the Winter Solstice festival signifies the start of winter when farmers should prepare for colder months. This is an occasion spent with family and involves a lot of delicious foods that have special meanings. For my family, this is another "can't miss" dinner. If we ever accidentally make plans, we better cancel them otherwise mom would glare at us with the coldest glare and you'd know you're in trouble.
In different parts of China, different types of food are consumed. For example, in Northern China, dumplings are a must. In Southern China, people have glutinous rice balls either as a savoury dish or sweet dessert. Even though my paternal grandma is from Northern China, she passed away when I was very young so I don't remember the dishes she made. My mom is Cantonese so we have Southern Chinese dishes at home!
Our Winter Solstice dinners always include:
- Chicken (in the olden days, meat was hard to come by as it was so expensive. It would be eaten only during special occasions like the Winter Solstice or Chinese New Year.)
- Fish ("fish" in Cantonese and Mandarin is a play on the word "abundance". We have fish to symbolize having an abundance of wealth and health.)
- Black moss with mushrooms and lettuce (black moss is a cousin of spirulina and is an algae that has a rather interesting texture. My mom usually cooks it with dried scallops, mushrooms and lettuce. We have this dish to symbolize having wealth.)
- glutinous rice balls in sweet dessert soup (This is probably my favourite part of the meal! My favourite are the sesame rice balls. My mom makes a spicy, gingery sweet dessert soup with these rice balls and I look forward to having this every year.)
Wishing you and yours a safe, warm, and delicious Winter Solstice Festival!