There’s a popular Chinese saying that says “the winter solstice is more important than Chinese New Year”.
But for Malaysian Chinese, you may be wondering how this could be true. After all, we get holidays to go back to our hometowns and participate in a week-long feast marathon. On the other hand, there isn’t even an official holiday for the Winter Solstice.
Have you ever wondered why the winter solstice is more significant than the new year? Here is a summary on why it is so:
- The winter solstice is the coldest time of the year. The Chinese in ancient times believe that after 81 days during winter, the arrival of spring is certain, and was thus the beginning of hope.
- The winter solstice is the solar event that marks the earth’s transition from yin energy to yang energy. It is from this perspective that the ancient Chinese regarded the winter solstice as the beginning of the new year.
- The winter solstice is an important day for ancestral worship. During the winter solstice, people who work outside must go home for the festival and pray to their ancestors.
- The ancients also used the winter solstice to judge the weather in the coming year. If the day of the winter solstice is bright and sunny, it means the day that Chinese New Year arrives on will be cloudy. Therefore, the ancient Chinese believe the Winter Solstice festival is more important than Chinese New Year.
Essentially, the saying came about because people in ancient China did consider the Winter Solstice as more important than Chinese New Year. One has to remember that ancient China was an agricultural community. Therefore, cultivation of the land had to be done according to the season.
The Winter Solstice is the shortest day and longest night of the year, after which the day gradually becomes longer with spring coming after winter fades away. According to the concept of Yin and Yang – which represents the balance and harmony of life – this means that the yin qualities of darkness and cold are its strongest, but also the turning point that will give way to yang energy which is light and warmth.
Hence, the Winter Solstice is a day of optimism that looks forward to new beginnings and the true start of a new year in ancient China. Although times has change and Chinese New Year has since become the most recognised festival in Chinese Culture, this belief of the Winter Solstice significant importance relative to Chinese New Year still remains so to some Chinese families, particularly those who descended from the southern part of China.
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