Heavy Snow is approaching! Unfortunately, it is not as though we are going to have real snow in Macao. I am, of course, referring to one of the 24 Ancient Chinese Solar Terms which were named according to the sun’s position. A few of these 24 days on the Solar Terms are well-known festivals, such as ٪_،K (Lap Chun) Start of Spring; ٢M)ڑ (Ching Ming), also known as Tomb Sweeping Day; and ٪V&\ (Dong Zhi) Winter Solstice. But only lately when I came across a discussion on leap months in the lunar calendar was I made aware of some other solar terms. Here are some things that not many of us know about the 24 Solar Terms.
Since 2016, the UNESCO has listed the Chinese 24 Solar Terms as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. As the name indicates, it is a way to divide a year into 24 period of time as the sun moves along the zodiac. These terms are divided into four groups of six for Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. Each terms is around 15 days and indicates the seasons and climate and were designed for agricultural purposes. Lap Chun usually falls on February 4 or 5, and is the first solar term of the year, and it is usually around the time of the Chinese New Year (CNY).
Each of the names of the 24 terms are very direct explanation of climate conditions. After the Start of Spring is +B$ٹ (Yu Soi) Rain Water, which falls on February 19 or 20 each year. We can tell from the name that this day indicates the start of the rainy season. Then there is إمَh (Geng Zat) Insects Waken, again clearly, a reference to the time when insects in hibernation wake up. But as we are, supposedly, in the winter months, let us look at the upcoming solar term.
This Friday, 7 December 2018, is the third term of the Winter season, $j٣٧ (Dai Sut) Heavy Snow. It is sometimes referred to as the Eleventh Month Festival, as it usually falls on the first day of the eleventh month of the lunar calendar. Well, aside from, obviously, snow starting to get heavy from this day, what are other customs related to Dai Sut?
Firstly, Heavy Snow is known to be a time of getting ready. It is said that amongst the thick snow, in the Northern part of China, hints of Spring can be noticed during this time of year, such as tigers mating, and small leaves of Lychee trees beginning to grow underneath the snow.
Secondly, this day is also for predicting upcoming weather in Spring. Sayings since ancient China claim that if it is not cold on Dai Sut, the following spring will be cold; or if it is sunny on Dai Sut, snow will be thick the following Start of Spring.
Finally, it is customary to eat preserved meat on Heavy Snow. The pot rice with Chinese preserved sausages that we often eat during winter is a Heavy Snow dish. Aside from eating preserved meat, while the snow is thick and the temperature is cold, Dai Sut is also a good day to preserve meat which can last for the whole winter season.
So, this Friday, don’t forget to check the weather to do some forecasting, while enjoying some steaming hot pots of rice with preserved meat, and preparing for Spring.