Beginning of Winter

Beginning of Winter - Li Dong 立冬

The 19th of the 24 seasonal notes, “li dong” literally means the beginning of winter in the traditional East Asian calendar. While winter solstices are often commonly marked as the first day of winter in the western almanac, li dong usually refers to the day when the sun reaches the celestial longitude of 225°, usually around November 7.  In addition to the solstices and equinoxes (which are also celebrated by many cultures), the beginning of each season is significant as East Asians were historically largely agrarian.  After a year of hard labor in the fields, farmers and their families welcome the first day of winter, a well-deserved opportunity to rest, retreat, and start winter rituals.

Many families celebrate this day by making and eating “jiao zi” dumplings, this ancient tradition is still very much alive in many parts of East Asia today. Other than dumplings, seasonal harvests and protein-rich ingredients such as black beans, quail, lamb, venison, root vegetables, squashes and sea cucumbers are traditionally featured in winter menus.  It is believed that these nutrient-dense foods help to keep warm, prevent illnesses and strengthen the body for the next year.

photo courtesy of Jiang Lin

While dumplings are available all year round and easily found in the frozen sections of many supermarkets, we recommend you make them from scratch as they will be more satisfying and taste more delicious.  Here’s a fantastic recipe from Jen Che of TinyUrbanKitchen, both pan-fried and boiled versions, here.

Bon Appétit!