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Wear Your Winter Jacket! 大寒 (Dà Hán) is Finally Here

As the New year enters, everything looks like complete sleet of panoramic white world. The snow perfectly engulfed the town. It covered everything, from the roads to the tiniest of pathways. People kept to their homes, seeking shelter from the freezing world outside. It is a season of coldness. However, it is also a time of joy and comfort.

During this time, the air will consistently get colder and drier. One might wonder when will its peak coldness arrive. This year, it will come on Jan 20th, because at this day, 大寒 (Dà Hán) Major Cold begins.

大寒 (Dà Hán) or “Major Cold” directly translates to “Reaching the Limit of Coldness” in Chinese. At this time, the temperature will continuously drop. Incredibly so, the weather substantially impacts the lives of the people. That is due to the cold current that moves southbound. Weather forecasters expect it to bring heavy snow to regions along the Yangtze River. According to NMC, some areas may experience thick sleets, almost 30 millimeters.

That is why there’s an archaic saying for this solar term. It is “Minor cold and major cold, people shrink into a ball because of the weather is cold.” After all, during this season, snow covers almost all of China. Turning most parts of the country into a “freeze mode.”

大寒 (Dà Hán) Major Cold is the last solar term of the winter. It is also the final solar term in the annual lunar calendar. With its beginning just around the corner, as per tradition, we will explore the customs and traditions during the Major Cold.

  1. 1. 消寒糕 (Xiāo Hán Gāo) Dispelling Cold Cake

Major cold brings fun and elaborate traditions. One of these is eating “Cold dispelling Cake.” The recipe for this pastry is quite simple. As it is a rice cake, glutinous rice is its main ingredient. However, it also contains more sugar than sticky rice. The sugar in the pastry provides people with a sugar rush. Because of this, people will feel an increase of warmth all over their bodies after eating the cake. That is why people named the pastry “dispelling cold cakes.” In Beijing, China, people eat “dispelling cold cakes” at the beginning of  “Major Cold.” Not only is it a snack to cope with the cold weather, but it also serves as a commemorative tradition in celebrating Dà hán.

2. 糯米饭 (Nuò Mǐ Fàn) Glutinous Rice

Interestingly, “dispelling cold cakes” is not the only glutinous rice eaten during Major Cold. In other regions in China, people prepare different forms of delicacies with rice cakes. In south China’s Guangdong Province, locals often cook a hot pot of glutinous rice with seafood such as shrimp or dried squid. They also add peppers to provide the body with extra warmth.

The most popular glutinous rice dish in China is the “eight-treasure rice pudding.” Traditionally, the delicacy has tons of topping like candied lotus seeds, dried mangoes, dried apricots, dried prunes, ginkgo nuts, chestnuts, and many more. However, because not all of these toppings are gastronomically consistent, people adapted different types of cooking. Now, the main ingredients are glutinous rice with sugar, red jujube, lotus seeds, and longans.

  • 3. 尾牙宴 (Wěi Yá Yàn)Year-end Banquet

While the other parts of China commemorate Major Cold by eating delicacies made from glutinous rice, some celebrate it with a “year-end banquet. Local traders hold a year-end banquet at the beginning of Major Cold to mark the end of their business activities for the year. They usually serve dishes like  “Run Bing” and “Yi Bao.” Run Bing is a dumpling packed with sauteed vegetables dipped in a traditional sauce. It comes in a variety of forms. It is delicious whether it is fresh, steamed, or fried. On the other hand, Yi Bao is a kind of Chinese burger. It’s usually pork belly or dumpling stuffings wrapped with two buns along with some sauce.

These year-end banquets usually occur in parts of coastal Fujian Province in southeast China, as well as the Taiwan region.

  • 4. 鸡汤 (Jī Tāng) Chicken Broth

Of course, fighting the cold wouldn’t be complete without a hot bowl of soup. That is why the locals in Nanjing, in east China’s Jiangsu Province, often drink stewed soup so that they can feel warm all over. Their favorite soup is chicken broth, cooked with aged hen and nutritious ginseng, Chinese wolfberry, and edible fungus. They add many herbs and spices to give the body nourishment and warmth.

Major cold is perhaps the coldest time of the year. However, there are traditions and practices during this time that make it a likable season. Stay safe. Stay warm. May Major Cold be gentle to you. Till next time.

Would you like to know more about traditional Chinese culture, please check them below:

Traditional Chinese Culture: The Laba Rice Porridge Festival

New Year’s day special: The origin of Yuandan

Fun and Exciting Activities in China: A Christmas Day Special

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