Date: the seasonal division point Winter Solstice (December 22nd or 23rd )
Winter Solstice, colloquially named "Dong Jie," is a very important festival in ancient times. Winter Solstice comes fifteen days later than the Great Snow. With the daytime reaching its shortest time in the northern hemisphere on that day and the night becoming the longest, it is the coldest day in a year. It also suggests the arriving of spring and is the turning point between winter and spring. Thus among the twenty four seasonal divisions, Winter Solstice is the most important one.
The ancient people thought that when Winter Solstice came, though it was still cold, the spring was already around the corner. People who were still out should come back home to show that they had reached their destination at the end of a year. People in Fujian and Taiwan provinces regard Winter Solstice as the day of reunion of families; for it is a day when they offer sacrifices to their ancestors, and anyone that doesn't return home will be seen as a person who has forgotten his ancestors.
The night of Winter Solstice is the longest in a year, so a lot of families will take advantage of this night to make "Winter Solstice dumplings" of glutinous rice. To distinguish it from "ci sui" (bid farewell to the outgoing year) on the lunar New Year's Eve, the day before Winter Solstice is named "tian sui" or "ya sui," suggesting that though a year (the Chinese "sui" means "year") hasn't ended, everybody has been a year older.
The traditional Chinese customs may differ from each other in some details, but they are more or less the same on the whole. When making Winter Solstice dumplings, people always knead the food into some little animals such as little cats, dogs rabbits and tigers at the request of kids. Kids often get very happy on the occasion like this. Before eating the Winter Solstice dumplings, people should stick a dumpling behind doors, windows, tables, cabins, beds and lights. It is called "killing time," because dumplings in these places can only be baked after sending off the Kitchen God. It is said that if some woman in the family is pregnant then, she will give birth to a boy if the dumplings expand, otherwise, it will be a girl. The number of people that eat Winter Solstice dumplings should be even so that it can be a good omen. At the end of the feast, if there are two dumplings left, the married people will get whatever they want in the future; while if there is only one left, the single ones will lead a life they wish. Some families also offer sacrifices to gods and their ancestors with some seasonable fruits and domestic animals. People may "put the winter rice in sun," too. That is to wash the rice with winter, insulate them in the sun and finally put them away so that they can be made into porridge for the people who may get ill in the future.