Winter Solstice Customs
Suzhou was the capital of Wuguo 2,500 years ago, but residents have continued Wu’s tradition to celebrate Winter Solstice as the New Year.
In the supermarkets of the ancient city of Suzhou, shoppers can find winter wine almost anywhere. The winter wine is made only once per year, and it is made of osmanthus, so it tastes sweet and dainty. The principle of Dongwu brewhouse said more than 100,000 bottles of winter wine produced by their factory were sold out in three days beginning the Dec 14. The winter wine is also popular in other places. There are also orders from Nanjing, Shanghai and Hangzhou and other places. When celebrating the festival, people in Suzhou always prepare delicious and generous dishes. The names of dishes are very interesting, such as ingot, reunion, gold chain and wishful vegetable. The interesting names suggest a happy atmosphere and imply the meaning of the traditional celebrations of Suzhou.
It is said that people in Suzhou have the habit of eating wontons in midwinter. According to the legend, during the midwinter feast 2,500 years ago, the King of Wuguo was disgusted with all kinds of costly foods and wanted to eat something different. Then, the beauty Xishi came to the kitchen to make the food “wonton” to honor the king’s wish. He ate a lot and liked the food very much. Tto commemorate Xishi, the people of Suzhou made wontons the official food to celebrate the festival.
A famous proverb spread in Wu told of people needing to replenish energy during the winter, because they could hunt tiger in spring. People in Suzhou ate mutton after autumn to make sure they had energy during the midwinter. Businesses selling mutton were very successful; one store could sell at least eight sheep per day. Most people enjoy mutton no matter if it’s stewed or boiled.