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Answer to the Exercise on What Do Chinese People Eat for the Winter Solstice?

Dec. 17, 2014

Correct Answer: A

“冬至(dōngzhì)” is the Winter Solstice Festival, which falls on December 22nd, 2014. It is the day of the year that the sun shines weakest and daylight hours are the shortest. This day has long been a very important holiday in China, and is still celebrated in China today.

Traditionally, on the Winter Solstice Festival, families in China gathered together to store their harvest. It continues to mark the end of the farming season for the year, and is a time when families can relax and enjoy their accomplishments. As you may know, every Chinese festival has its own special food, and the Winter Solstice Festival is no exception.

Dumplings are a staple, as well as the most popular, food for the Winter Solstice Festival. This is especially true in Northern China. There is a legend that 张仲景(Zhang Zhongjing), a renowned medical scientist at the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220), came across some fellow-townsmen suffering from the cold and hunger while on his way home one winter from his position as prefecture chief. Their situation was dire, and many of them had terrible tissue damage in their ears from the cold. On the Winter Solstice Festival, to feed the people, he cooked a food named Jiao Er, with a stuffing of medicine and other ingredients to fend off the cold. With his aid, they soon recovered. Later people learned to make the same food, and it eventually evolved into the dumplings that are made these days in China. Meanwhile, the saying spread that a person’s ears will freeze if he doesn’t have dumplings on the Winter Solstice Festival. It is a phrase that is still spoken today.

In the southern parts of China, people usually eat glutinous rice balls called “汤圆(tāngyuán),” which are made of glutinous rice flour and are sometimes brightly colored. Each family member receives at least one large “汤圆(tāngyuán)” in addition to several small ones. The flour balls may be plain or stuffed. They are cooked in a sweet soup or savory broth with both the ball and the soup/broth served in one bowl. “汤圆(tāngyuán)” symbolize reunion because their name is a homophone for “团圆(tuányuán)” meaning “union.”

In our test, Nancy wants to know what Chinese people eat on the Winter Solstice Festival. Chinese people eat “粽子(zòngzi)” on the Dragon Boat Festival, “月饼(yuèbǐng)” on the Mid-Autumn Festival, and “年糕(nián’gāo)” during the Spring Festival. However, for the Winter Solstice Festival, Chinese people in the north of China eat “饺子(jiǎozi)” and they eat “汤圆(tāngyuán)” in the south of China. So the correct answer is A.

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