Today, December 22, marks the Dōngzhì Festival in China. It is celebrated in many different ways.
In northern China where it can get bitterly cold, people eat hot food and drink
hot liquids to stay warm. Historically on Dōngzhì day, people went to the clan tombs to offer food and drink to their ancestor's spirits, clean the tombs, and work to maintain them. Then they gathered in the evening afterward for hot dumplings and drinks. People believed that when the days were short, there was insufficient yang energy, and they tried to eat high yang foods according to Chinese medicinal cuisine principals. Because of this, they ate fatty dumplings that contained meat and high yang warming herbs such as ginger and garlic.
Some people in southern China and some Chinese in communities in Southeast Asia gather together to make and eat a meal of tang yuan. Tang yuan symbolizes family unity and prosperity. These are specially cooked balls of rice that might have a filling of bean paste or meat with sweet high yang herbs. These are usually pink or white colored. Tang yuan is often served in a bowl with a sweet soup or broth.
For many Taiwanese and people of Taiwanese descent in other countries, the festival is still important. Families will go to the ancestral tombs and have meals of tang yuan, and they might offer tangyuan to the spirits at the tombs. They also have a custom of offering nine-layer cakes to their ancestors. The cakes are made of rice flour and are shaped like animals such as chickens, ducks, tortoises, pigs, cows, and sheep. According to traditional Chinese medical concepts, winter is the time of year it is important to rest, relax and nourish the body with high Yang fatty foods.