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Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class- Holidays in Hong Kong Series at CantoneseClass101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind holidays and observances in Hong Kong. I’m Eric, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 8 Winter Solstice or 冬至 in Cantonese.
In Chinese societies, winter solstice is one of the most important traditional events. The date usually falls around December 22 in the Gregorian calendar, and it is the longest night of the year. Let's see how Hong Kong people celebrate winter solstice!
Now, before we get into more detail, I've got a question for you- In which region is the winter solstice designated as a public holiday or 公眾假期 in Cantonese?
If you don't already know, you’ll find out a bit later, so keep listening!
In Chinese tradition, there is a saying that “Winter solstice is more important than Lunar New Year.” That is because ancient China was an agricultural community, and cultivation had more to do with winter solstice than the New year. So the Chinese people observed astronomy and the laws of nature, and found that winter solstice has the shortest day and the longest night of the year; after that day, the daytime gradually becomes longer, and spring comes as winter fades away.
Modern Western astronomy has shown that the ancient Chinese idea of ​​the winter solstice is actually in line with scientific logic, or 科學邏輯 in Cantonese. On this day, the sun shines directly on the Tropic of Capricorn, which means it has the shortest daylight hours of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.
On winter solstice, everyone has a family reunion and dines together, which is called 做冬 in Cantonese. People have a delicious dinner with family and friends and enjoy bonding and reuniting with everyone. And if you celebrate winter solstice in Hong Kong, don’t forget to try some glutinous rice balls, or 湯丸 as dessert, to make it a perfect event.
Do you know why eating glutinous rice balls is a custom during the winter solstice?
Glutinous rice balls or 湯丸 are a round-shaped dessert made of glutinous rice flour, and they symbolize reunion. There are various types of fillings in glutinous rice balls. The most common ones are black sesame or 黑芝麻 and peanut or 花生. In some regions, eating glutinous rice balls on winter solstice represents a person adding a year to their age.
On winter solstice, many companies let their employees go home one or two hours before schedule, so they can get ready for the big family dinner.
Now it's time to answer our quiz question-
In which region is the winter solstice designated as a public holiday or 公眾假期 in Cantonese?
Winter solstice is actually not a public holiday in Hong Kong. Macau or 澳門, is the only region among all Chinese societies that classifies winter solstice as a public holiday.
How was this lesson? Did you learn anything interesting?
Is there a holiday that celebrates Winter Solstice in your culture?
Leave us a comment at CantoneseClass101.com
We'll see you next time!