Dongzhi or the Winter Festival is an important festival celebrated for the winter solstice (northern hemisphere) around the 21st or 22nd December in China, Taiwan and other Asian countries. This year it is on Sunday 21st December. The origins can be traced back to the principles of yin and yang – after the winter solstice the days start getting longer bringing in positive yang energy. For people from southern China It is a time for families to gather together and celebrate by eating tangyuan, balls of glutinous rice. Tangyuan are made of glutinous rice flour and sometimes brightly coloured. Each family member receives at least one large tangyuan in addition to several small ones. The flour balls may be plain or stuffed. They are cooked in a sweet soup or savoury broth with both the ball and the soup/broth served in one bowl.
Tangyuan is also often served with a mildly alcoholic unfiltered rice wine containing whole grains of glutinous rice (and often also sweet osmanthus flowers), called Jiuniang. Tang The Asian Food Emporium (formerly Great Eastern Food Centre) at 185 Russell Street, Melbourne sell ingredients for tangyuan like sticky rice, brown sugar and ginger and stock Jiuniang wine.
People from northern China typically eat dumplings or dumpling soup at Dongzhi. This originates from the story of Zhang Zhongjing in the Han Dynasty. On one cold winter day, he saw the poor suffering from chilblains on their ears and had dumplings made and distributed to them to warm them. Today people from this region celebrate by eating dumplings or dumpling soup to celebrate Dongzhi. Tang The Asian Food Emporium stock a good variety of dumplings, call in to pick up your dumplings ready for Dongzhi.