Why Is Winter Solstice a Big Holiday in China?

Ingredients for winter solstice soups. (Image: Fotolia)
Ingredients for winter solstice soups. (Image: Fotolia)

The Winter Solstice falls on Dec. 22, and this day is an important holiday for Chinese people. Traditionally, the Winter Solstice is celebrated as a big holiday because it is the longest night in the year and it’s regarded as the coldest day in the Chinese lunar calendar. This is closely related to the Chinese concept of Yin and Yang.

Because Chinese believe this is the coldest day of the year, they celebrate this day with warm food and a big family gathering to drive away the cold of Yin and replace it with the warm and happy atmosphere of Yang. So the Winter Solstice is a time of good food and a happy family get-together.

On this day in Northern China, people will eat dumplings, or if it’s a big family, they’ll have Mongolian firepot. In southern China, people will eat tang yuan, a sweet made from glutinous rice flour.

Beef, chicken, sweet potato, celery, turnip, ginger, cord fish, and bean sprouts are highly recommended foods for winter.

A pot of hot soup is a must for the family feast, especially in this very dry winter season, to fend off the cold and boost the body.

Here are a couple great nutritious soups for the Winter Solstice:

1. Turnip with Spareribs Soup

Turnip is low-cal and rich in vitamins C, B1, and B2. It is fibrous and contains numerous minerals, such as calcium, phosphorous, and iron, which are essential to the immune system.


  • 1 long turnip
  • 1 pound of spareribs
  • 500g Chinese mushrooms, shallot, ginger, vinegar, salt, and cooking wine


  1. Wash turnip and cut into thick slices; wash spareribs, put in hot water, boil for 3 minutes, and drain.
  2. Put turnip in water to boil. After 10 minutes, drain the turnip.
  3. Put water in a casserole dish. Add spareribs, ginger, a tablespoon of cooking wine and vinegar. Braise under medium heat for half an hour.
  4. Add mushrooms and bolied turnip. Braise for another half hour under medium heat.
  5. When done, season with salt and garnish with chopped green shallots, or chopped coriander .

2. Beef and Potato Soup


  • 1 kg beef
  • 500 g potato
  • 1 onion
  • 80 g ginger
  • 10g cinnamon
  • 3 tsp cooking wine
  • pepper, a few shakes
  • 2 tsp salt


  1. Cut beef into approximately 4 cm squares and in 0.5 cm thickness. Soak in cold water for about 2 hours. Then boil the whole thing and scoop away scum.
  2. Put beef and stock in a casserole. Squash green onion and ginger, and add to pot. Put rest of ingredients a pot of water and bring to a boil. Add cinnamon, cooking wine, and salt. Simmer over medium heat for 1 hour until well flavored.
  3. Take away green onion, ginger and cinnamon.
  4. Peel potatoes and cut into big chunks.
  5. Add potatoes to beef pot and simmer for half hour. Add garlic to season and stir well. Sprinkle pepper on before serving.

Enjoy these delicious soups and Happy Winter Solstice!


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