文 / 张成熠
2018 年 12 月 22日是中国二十四节气之一的冬至日。
冬至是中国二十四节气中的第二十二个，是北半球昼极短夜极长之日。这一天，地球运行在近日点附近，太阳正好直射南回归线。由于地球围绕太阳运行一周（一个太阳年）的实际时间为 365天5 小时 48 分多钟，故冬至日的时间会有所变动，一般在 12 月 21-23日之间，也称为“活节”。冬至日一过，太阳北回，北半球从此日照增加，阴气由极盛转衰；阳气由极衰开始复苏。阳气增长，此称“一阳升”。因此，冬至之时万物复苏，新年伊始，古人称之为“亚年”——这一称谓也从侧面反映了冬至在二十四节气中的重要性。
among all 24 solar terms.
Phenology is the study of the periodic change of living organism’s response to seasonal changes. The Winter Solstice constitutes one of three major phenological phenomenon— traditionally, it causes the earthworms agglomerate, five days later the elks slough their antlers, and ten days later the springs and brooks start to flow.
On the day of Winter Solstice, YIN reaches its maximum, as we’ve mentioned before. Earthworms, as our ancestors said to be, are animals that curl in darkness and extend outward in brightness. As a result, at the Winter Solstice, earthworms remain agglomerated in the soil. Five days after Winter Solstice, the rise in YANG becomes noticeable. Elks, with their antlers pointing backward, are considered to be animals that prefer darkness to brightness. Consequently, five days after the Winter Solstice, elks slough their antlers in response to the declining YIN. Ten days after Winter Solstice, the rise in YANG becomes more influential. Springs, which were frozen in previous seasons, start to melt now. The streams murmur and the water it holds is comfortably warm instead of freezing cold, and other living things can then begin to sprout and grow.
As the saying goes, “Winter Solstice is as important as New Year.” Indeed, Winter Solstice was one of the most important solar terms among all 24. The tradition of praying on Winter Solstice has been established since the Zhou Dynasty ( 1046 BC–256 BC). Praying at Winter Solstice is believed to be effective in reducing famine, epidemics, and the overall death rate. In the Han Dynasty (202 BC–220), Winter Solstice is celebrated with a day off and a national- scale concert for celebrating the new cycle. In the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907), people bought new clothes, threw feasts, and honored their ancestors at the Winter Solstice.
Nowadays, Winter Solstice is celebrated less grandly, for Chinese traditions are diluted with all those fascinating western celebrations. Still, traditional cuisine keeps on reminding us of this once- in- a- year celebration. In Gusu, Suzhou, local people brew “winter- brewed wine,” a rice- based wine with the fragrance of osmanthus flower— they sip the wine gently at the night of Winter Solstice. In Northern China, it is a longheld tradition to eat dumplings at the Winter Solstice, because two thousand years ago, Zhang Zhongjing, the saint of medicine, used these ear- shaped, warm, delicious morsels to cure the frozen ear symptoms of residents on the Winter Solstice Day. In Southern China, people eat red bean sticky rice stew to prevent frightening phantoms from haunting them.
The 22nd of December might be an ordinary Saturday for some, since many Chinese now no longer lead an agriculturebased life, and the solar terms are less indispensable to our lives. However, as the inheritors of a culture with thousands of years of history, it’s still quite pleasant and enjoyable for us to have a bowl of hot dumplings or some red bean sticky rice together with the family on the day of Winter Solstice, just as what Westerners do on Christmas Eve.
俗语有云，冬至大如年。 各地皆有过冬至的习俗自周朝 （前1046—前 256）起，人们在冬至日祭祀，以求消灾、减免瘟疫饥荒以及延缓死亡。在汉代（前202—公元 220），人们会在冬至日休息一天，举国上下鼓瑟吹笙，以表庆祝。在唐朝（618— 907），人们会在冬至日置办新衣，大摆宴席，祭祀先祖。
2018 年 12 月 22 日，一个普通的星期六。作为继承着已传承了千年之久的文化精髓的一代人，在凛冬已至之时吃一碗热乎乎的饺子或红豆糯米饭，图一个亲人相聚的时刻，像西方过圣诞那样，也是一种惬意和享受。