The traditional Chinese lunar calendar divides the year into 24 solar terms. Major cold, the 24th solar term, is the last solar term in the lunar calendar. Major cold begins on Jan 20 this year.
A folk saying goes: "A new year begins after major cold." Many of the folk customs during this period are closely related to the lunar new year.
Laba festival, celebrated on the 8th day of the twelfth lunar month, falls during major cold. It is custom to have laba porridge, made from 8 types of grains, on this day to pay respects to ancestors and gods.
In the old times, people rushed to buy sesame stalks during major cold. The stalks were laid on the ground for kids to crush with their feet (cai sui) on new year's eve, homophonic to "wishing a safe and sound coming year."
Chinese people like to fire fireworks and burn incense papers to pay respects to the gods and welcome the new year. The whole family would get together well into the night on New Year's Eve to wait for the arrival of the new year.
Major cold coincides with the time of end-of-year offerings, which falls on 16th day of the twelfth lunar month. Eating spring cakes, usually stirfried julienned vegetables wrapped in thin pancakes made from flour, is a custom in many parts of China.
Those in South China like to eat glutinous rice during major cold.
This custom, though simple, shows
the wisdom of Chinese ancestors. Glutinous rice is high in calories compared to other grains, which made it a suitable staple during the harsh cold winter in the old times.