The Winter Solstice is a Festival more important than Lunar New Year – why is that?
We have been asked the question about why some masters claim that Winter Solstice is important. And their followers have been told that early annual remedies have to be put up following the solar date of Winter Solstice. But the real reason behind that is never properly explained or revealed. We hope this article clarifies the matter.
Lunar New Year is one of the most celebrated festivals in China but culturally, the winter solstice, or dongzhi, is seen as the more important one. It usually falls around 22nd December annually when the sunshine is weakest and daylight shortest, telling people that winter days have come officially.
To understand further, it is necessary to examine the “24 solar terms”, a system unique to Chinese culture. The 24 solar terms refer to specific points in the Earth’s orbit around the sun. These markers on the sun’s position and its effects on weather have a huge influence on the people and their activities, from paddy field and orchard farmers to feng shui practitioners. Even the Chinese almanac, a divination guide, refers to dates and traditions derived from the solar terms.
The four obvious dates are the beginning of spring (lichun), the beginning of summer (lixia), the beginning of autumn (liqiu) and the beginning of winter (lidong). The vernal or spring equinox (chunfen) and the autumnal equinox (qiufen) are the two points where the day and night are of equal length. The summer solstice (xiazhi) has the longest day and shortest night in a year, while the opposite is true for the winter solstice (dongzhi).
The winter solstice was one of the first dates determined among the 24 solar terms, which form a Chinese lunisolar calendar. In ancient times, it helped a mostly agrarian society keep tabs on seasonal changes.
The Winter Solstice hast its origin in the concept of yin and yang, which represents balance and harmony in life. It is believed that yin qualities of darkness and cold winter solstice festivalare at their most powerful on the shortest day of the year, but also at their turning point to give way to the light and warmth of yan. For this reason, the Winter Solstice is a time for optimism. The festival can be traced back to the yin and yang philosophy of balance and harmony in the cosmos. After this day, there will be days with longer daylight hours and therefore an increase in positive energy flowing in. It is believed that the yin qualities of darkness and cold are at their most powerful at this time, but it is also the turning point, giving way to the light and warmth of yang.
It was Dan the Duke of Zhou, of the Zhou dynasty (1046BC – 256BC), who proposed that the year start on the winter solstice or dongzhi. This was when ancestor worshipping ceremonies and family reunions happen.
It has been noted in history books that people would save their money to buy new clothes, prepare feasts and worship their ancestors on that day, which was more or less celebrated like the Lunar New Year today.
In fact, the Lunar New Year was not declared the herald of the new year until almost a millennium later in the Western Han dynasty (202BC – 9AD) by Emperor Wu of Han.
It is no wonder, then, that the winter solstice remains so important in Chinese culture – and it makes sense, when looked at through the lens of an agrarian society.
For most native folks, winter solstice is more important than Lunar New Year because it’s the shortest and coldest day of the year. Akin to Chinese Thanksgiving, it becomes a Chinese tradition to gather the family around a warm dinner to nurture the soul with celebration, and the body with good food to fight the remaining winter. The saying goes, “the bigger the winter solstice celebration is, the better the year ahead.” When the crops are long harvested and winter preparations mostly done, what else should one do on the year’s shortest day but gather and celebrate with family and friends. The festive food is also a reminder that everyone is a year older and should behave better in the coming year. The elderly insist that one is a year older right after Dongzhi celebration instead of waiting for the Lichun day to take advantage
However, one must never mistaken the Winter Solstice as a date where you have to start remedying any affliction of the upcoming year. The date of transition of energy for flying stars will still be on 4th February every year, when Li Chun (beginning of spring) starts. Winter solstice no doubt is important, but it is not a date that replaces the Li Chun when it comes to feng shui placement.