Winter Solstice, one of the 24 Solar Terms, is a traditional Chinese festival that usually falls on December 21st, 22nd or 23rd. On that day, the northern hemisphere has the shortest daytime and longest nighttime. After that, areas in this hemisphere have longer days and shorter nights.
Dumplings are the food of choice during Winter Solstice, especially in northern China. According to legend Zhang Zhongjing, a renowned medical scientist at the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 ñ 220 AD), found his fellow townsmen suffering of hunger in the cold when he returned from his position as prefecture chief in winter. Many of them had terrible chilblains in their ears. On the Winter Festival, he cooked food called Jiao Er with a stuffing of medicine and other ingredients to help fend off the cold for his neighbors and they soon recovered. Later, people learned to recreate the dumplings. Lending some truth to the popular saying that one’s ears will freeze if they don’t have dumplings on Winter Solstice.