This post is actually a mix between two series. It’s part of our series on Myths and Legends but also part of our series on Christmas traditions worldwide, as it takes place during the holiday season in China, although most people there don’t celebrate Christmas. This is the Chinese legend of Winter Solstice.
Today is Dongzhi, or Winter Solstice, a traditional festival in China. According to the Chinese lunar calendar, today begins the coldest time of the year. There is a popular saying that if you don’t have dumplings on this day, your ears will freeze and fall off. So people, especially children, typically eat dumplings in northern China and glutinous rice balls in southern China.
The Chinese Legend of Winter Solstice dates back to the Eastern Han Dynasty. A renowned traditional Chinese physician saw the poor suffering from the chilblains on their ears, so he had special dumplings stuffed with herbs and other ingredients made for them to help expel the cold. Since the dumplings are shaped like ears, he named them “Jiaoer.” From that time on, the tradition of eating Jiaozi (meaning dumplings) on Dongzhi began.
Global volunteers cannot verify the claim that ears actually fall off if you don’t eat dumplings today; however, we can assure you that you would be missing out if you don’t try them in China. We do have lots of volunteer that can testify to that and who have loved both their service program experience and the chance to make and enjoy dumplings in China.