How to Celebrate the Dongzhi Festival

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The Dongzhi Festival, also referred to as the Winter Solstice Festival, celebrates the season’s turning point toward the warmer, lighter days of spring. It’s a time during the depths of winter to enjoy a hearty, fortifying family meal that raises hopes for spring’s arrival.

Dongzhi Festival

Mark Your Calendars
Dongzhi Festival 2024 is December 21, 2024. It takes place every year on December 21 or 22.

Here’s a simple guide to a holiday that’s all about helping you warm up during the bitterly cold winter months.


red-lanternThe Basics

To really get a feel for the Dongzhi Festival, you have to imagine hard, rural living during a gray Han Dynasty winter more than 2,000 years ago. Now picture a family meal at a table set with hearty, warming foods, raising the hopes for spring’s arrival. That’s the spirit of the Dongzhi Festival.

The Dongzhi Festival marries the winter solstice with nature’s harmonious balance of yin and yang energy. From this point forward, dongzhi (i.e. the extreme of winter) and the negative yin qualities of darkness and cold give way to the positive yang qualities of light and warmth. In other words, take heart — spring will come.


red-lanternDongzhi Festival Traditions

Traditionally, the Dongzhi Festival was a day to regroup with a family get together before tackling the last leg of winter. Today, with survival less of a daily concern and no time off granted, the Dongzhi Festival is celebrated mostly with a family meal full of warm, hearty foods.

How to Make Tang Yuan

In southern China, people eat these round glutinous rice balls filled with sweet sesame or red bean paste which symbolize family togetherness and reunion. Serve each family member one large tang yuan and several small ones together in a ginger broth. Read More »

How to Make Lamb Dumplings

In northern China, people eat lamb dumplings for the Dongzhi Festival, a tribute to the Han Dynasty physician, Zhang Zhongjing, who served this warming food to poor farmers suffering from frostbite during one particularly cold winter. Read More »


red-lanternWhen is the Dongzhi Festival?

The Dongzhi Festival takes place every year on December 21 or 22. There is no time off granted for the Dongzhi Festival.

Dongzhi Festival dates through 2026 are below.

Year Date
2015 December 22
2016 December 21
2017 December 21
2018 December 21
2019 December 22
2020 December 21
2021 December 21
2022 December 21
2023 December 22
2024 December 21
2025 December 21
2026 December 21

Your turn! Do you have any other questions about celebrating the Dongzhi Festival? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

HT: Photo by Life Is In The Small Things.

18 Responses

    • Wes Radez

      Hey Nicole,
      Yes, it’s definitely a fun one, all about cold weather and the winter solstice. Makes a lot of sense here in the States, too, where having something sweet bubbling on the stove when it’s cold outside is a familiar occasion. I’m going to post a tutorial on making tang yuan in the next couple of weeks. Hope it’s helpful!

    • Wes Radez

      Quite welcome, Betty, thanks for stopping in. Checked out your site — very cool! ~Wes

  1. frankie

    This is very cool i have to do a project on this holiday and you helped thanks chief.

  2. Michelle

    Thank you for this information. Is there a certain greeting associated with the Dongzhi Festival? How can I wish a Chinese friend a happy Dongzhi Festival in Chinese?

  3. Allegra

    This is great information! It helped me a lot on my school project about this holiday! Thank you so much!

  4. Cherie

    I am teaching Christmas around the world to preschool age 4 children. I found this tradition for China in December. Besides making rice balls or eating dumplings, what is another main idea I can communicate to my kids about this festival? How does the ‘shoes for Seniors’ activity work? What are some ways preschool age 4 or 5 kids can participate in Dongzhi festivities?

    • Wes Radez

      Thanks for your question, Cherie. Please refer to the article above for more information about the Dongzhi Festival. ~Wes

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