The Minor Snow Customs
The 24 solar terms were made based on the seasonal changes of the lower and middle branches of the Yellow River. Thus the characteristics of every solar term are most obvious there. During Minor Snow, the earth of the northern area is frozen, while in the south, the temperature is dropping and the weather is gloomy and cold, but there is no snow yet. The different ways of production and life can be seen.
In the past, people in most areas of the north started preparing the stove and living on a kang (a brick bed heat from below by a stove) after Minor Snow. Some would burn charcoal in a brazier to keep warm. During Minor Snow, there is little work to do in the field. Therefore, people repair their farm tools and keep their livestock in warm places, preparing for the next spring. Some would continue watering the wheat to make sure it survived the winter. People in this season hoped there would be a snow to cover the wheat field and save them from watering. The proverb goes “if the wheat has three covers of snow, you can sleep on the mantou”, or “snow in Minor Snow forecasts a good harvest next year”. People wish to see snow in Minor Snow to nourish their wheat and freeze pests.
During Minor Snow, people in the southern areas start to prepare warm clothing, handwarmers or tangpo (a warmer in a bed), and hang cotton curtains on the door to prevent cold air from seeping in from outside. In the field, irrigation equipment is repaired to prepare for the irrigation of the rice next year. At the same time, the earth is plowed to lower the temperature and freeze pests hidden in the ground. After Minor Snow, every family begins to make preserved food, such as cabbage, radish or poultry, to extend the storage time of the food and prepare for winter consumption. Some steam glutinous rice for the winter.
Custom of Minor Snow in Old Nanjing
“To the people foodstuff is all-important.” Unlike today, people in the past only had vegetables from their own farms. That’s why the pickled vegetables were so popular in Nanjing, especially in winter. One kind of cabbage named gao geng bai is most frequently used to make pickled vegetables. During Minor Snow, all families buy vegetables by the danzi (a carrying pole and there are about 100 jin (half kilograms) in every danzi). The vegetables were air dried on a rope or on the ground for several days. After that, they were washed and dried out. Four jin of salt were added per hundred jin of vegetables. After being rubbed softly with salt, the vegetable were put in a big vat and covered with a huge stone. About a week later, the vegetables were taken out and put in a vessel with a narrow mouth and broad belly one by one. The vessel was sealed tightly. In good condition, the pickled vegetables were edible until next summer. There is an old saying about delicious pickled vegetables: “you cannot refuse the vegetable even when your mouth was hit”. There a story in which Song Meiling was deeply impressed by the delicious pickled vegetable of a restaurant in Nanjing. For thousands of years, the people of Nanjing have passed the winter with pickled vegetables cooked in different ways. Nanjing is known for its pickled vegetables.