The traditional Chinese lunar calendar divides the year into 24 solar terms. Start of winter, the 19th solar term of the year and the first solar term of winter, begins on Nov 7 this year.
Start of winter is a festive time for the people of Manchu Eight Banners and Han Eight Banners in Benxi, Liaoning province. The Eight Banners (baqi) were military and administrative divisions during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Four beginnings of seasons were important festivals in ancient times. The emperor ate only vegetables prior to the solar term and led his officials to the suburbs on the day of start of winter to partake in a ceremony to "welcome the winter".
Temperatures across China differ greatly after start of winter. North China may experience a much drier and cooler climate, while those living in the south can still enjoy green mountains and fragrant flowers.
Ancient China was an agricultural society, and most crops were harvested by start of winter. As a reward, farmers often ate high-calorie meals (such as mutton and pork) to reward a year's hard work and to nourish and prepare the body for the harsh winter weather.
Start of winter sits at a cross point between autumn and winter, or at the time of jiaozi. People in ancient China took the homophone and ate dumplings, also jiaozi in Chinese, on the day of start of winter, and the custom was passed on to today.