TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Today (Dec. 22) is the Dongzhi (冬至, extreme of winter) Festival or winter solstice, the peak of winter based on the lunisolar calendar, and though many consider it a festive time for family gatherings, it is also the longest night of the year when ghosts are also believed to be on the prowl, thus there are five major taboos that are to be avoided.
During the Dongzhi Festival in Taiwan, people traditionally make tangyuan (湯圓, soup dumplings), which are balls of glutinous rice boiled in a sweet soup, to symbolize reunion, completeness, and their consumption ensures a smooth and peaceful new year. However, few are aware that, in addition to the Ghost Festival observed during the 7th lunar month, Dongzhi is also known as "Ghost Festival," and there are taboos that must be observed on this short day and long night.
Feng shui expert Master Kwan (關雲麒) compiled the following list of five taboos on the Oriental Daily News website:
1. Dongzhhi is Ghost Festival
There is a saying in old an old feng shui guide that says, "When Dongzhi comes, gods leave and ghosts arrive." It implies that people can give offerings to ancestors and ghosts on Dongzhi to pray for the elimination of epidemics and the reduction of hunger in times of famine. In addition, Donzhi is the shortest day and the longest night, therefore Yin energy is heavy.
In northern China, some describe the day as "Hundred Ghosts Chanting" (百鬼吟), and some even have the custom of burning joss paper, thus it has come to be known as "Ghost Festival."
2. Married women cannot go to their mother's home
There is a custom that married women cannot go to their mother's home on Dongzhi for fear of bringing misfortune to her parents-in-law. However, the original, well-intentioned idea was that because Dongzhi is so cold, the fear was that the in-laws would suffer from cold and no one would take care of them during the frigid weather.
3. Avoid staying up late
Dongzhi is cold and cloudy, especially late at night when people's Yang energy is weakest and Yin energy is most abundant. If people stay up late on this night, they are prone to be becoming weak and vulnerable to illness. Therefore, people are advised against staying up too late.
4. Do not be overly sexually active
Similarly, it is advised that married couples do not engage in too much sex on this day as it could lead to a leakage of Yang energy and disease.
5. Do not eat odd numbers of tangyuan
Eating tangyuan signifies reunions and longevity. The traditional red and white dumplings can also attract marriage and popularity. However, when eating tangyuan, they must be eaten in even numbers and not odd numbers to have their desired effect on good fortune.