November 22nd or 23rd of the Gregorian calendar ushers in China’s twentieth solar term when everything is covered in a blanket of light snow. In the north, there is a saying, “If the light snow flies in the sky, the next year will be a good year.” Light snow can provide moisture to soil while trapping and freezing pests, which would mean a good harvest the next year. This is why Light Snow is welcomed, especially by farmers in an agrarian country like China. Chinese are known for their diligence and they prepare for the weather. Ahead of winter, farmers dig the land to nourish the soil and don’t sow until spring when the earth is primed for a rich harvest.
For hundreds of years, Light Snow has lent itself to beautiful poetry and soulful songs. It has become entrenched in daily life too. China is a vast country with a vast territory and abundant resources. Chinese people like to eat with gusto. The arrival of Light Snow heralds another set of festivities where people follow unique customs to welcome the cold.
When Light Snow comes knocking at your door, pour out the good wine. The Chinese have been making wine as early as the Xia Dynasty. But what does snow have to do with wine? Plenty! There is a special term for wine that is brewed during the solar term of Light Snow, called “Light Snow Wine.” At this time, the water is the clearest so the wine brewed is clear and tasteful. Drink a pot of hot wine to warm your stomach in cold winter.
When Light Snow comes knocking at your door, lay bacon on the table. After the snow, the temperature drops sharply and the weather becomes dry, which is a good time for processing bacon. After Light Snow, farmers prepare sausages and bacon. After a wait of two months, they can begin enjoying delicious food during the Spring Festival. When snow is sprinkling outside, families gather in warm home, savoring the delicious bacon and enjoying their happy reunion.
When light snow comes knocking at your door, take out your mittens and bake some rice cakes. In South China, Hakka people follow the tradition of eating sticky rice cakes in Light Snow. In ancient times, sticky rice cake was used for sacrificial purposes. Farmers would offer it to the God of Cattle while praying for a good harvest next year.
Light Snow reminds you it’s time to dry fish. This is also a time for fishermen living by the sea to dry their fish for the winter. The arrangement of dried, salted fish is a vivid portrayal of the early winter by the sea.
Light Snow reminds you it’s time for a pork feast. Before and after the Light Snow, Tujia community carries out the annual tradition of slaying pigs and welcoming the New Year. Then farmers use their best fresh pork to cook up a pork feast. Neighbors are invited and residents gather together to have a good time.
But food for the Chinese is as therapeutic for the soul as it is for their palate. In the Light Snow solar term, people prefer to eat beef, mutton and other ingredients to keep their bodies and souls warm. A gloomy and bleak winter may lead to depression. So the Chinese prefer to eat spinach, soybean, vegetables, kiwifruit and other foods rich in folic acid to relieve symptoms of depression. Eating these so-called “warming food” helps people enjoy winter.