Xiao Xue, Let It Snow in China
By: Kevin Ye
A solar term is a period of about two weeks, based on the sun’s position in the zodiac. Solar terms form the traditional Chinese calendar system. The calendar follows the ancient Chinese belief that living in accordance with nature will enable one to live a harmonious life. This article series explores each solar term, offering guidance on how to best navigate the season.
The cold has settled as we enter Xiǎo Xuě, the second solar term of the winter season which begins on November 22 and ends on December 6. This means snow! It begins to snow lightly in China during this term, hence the name Xiǎo Xuě which translates to “little snow”. Temperatures in the north decline to below freezing while the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River greet their first snowfall.
What to Eat
n the south, rice cakes are a popular treat during this solar term. Glutinous rice cakes or “nián gāo” (年糕) are a sweet Chinese dessert made out of rice flour, baking powder, milk, eggs, vegetable oil, and sugar. Nián gāo were once traditional foods offered as sacrifices to the bull god. These rice cakes can also be stir-fried in which they become chǎo nián gāo (炒年糕). Click here for an easy rice cake recipe.
More traditional food for Xiǎo Xuě include daikon which is known as white radish or “luobo” in Asia. The root and leaves are edible and the radish can be eaten raw or cooked.
Recall from earlier articles that our body is made up of yin (cold) and yang (heat). Keeping them balanced is important. It is best to eat food with high calories to preserve the yang in our body. These foods, such as mutton or beef, tend to have more fats and contain more energy. Mutton soup with radish is a popular specialty that hits all the checkmarks. Make it yourself with this recipe!
Farming Activities and Other Customs
An important custom during this time of year includes preparing food for the long winter. As vegetables are unable to be grown in winter, people like to pickle them to preserve them throughout the winter. They use a fermentation process to prolong the shelf life of the foods.
Vegetables like radishes or cabbages are put into pots and pickled for a few weeks. In addition, some people put pickled vegetables in the sun for seven or eight days. When it’s time to eat the vegetables, they will bring them back to life by cooking them in boiling water.
It is also a tradition to make preserved pork and sausages at this time in preparation for the Spring Festival, also known as Chinese New Year. The fresh meat is seasoned with salt, Chinese prickly peppers, aniseed, cinnamon and other seasonings. Fish can also be soaked in these herbs and spices. After seasoning, the meat is hung up to dry. Then, they are stored in the fridge for the rest of Winter.
A tip for keeping warm comes from a popular Chinese saying, “the head is the place where all passages of the body gather”. Thus, keep your head warm by wearing hats and scarves. If you thought Xiǎo Xuě was cold, wait until you see what solar term is coming up next.
Yes, you may have already guessed it: the next solar term coming up is Major Snow (Dà Xuě 大雪). Prepare yourself for the full wrath of winter!