The traditional Chinese lunar calendar divides the year into 24 solar terms. Start of Winter, the 19th solar term of the year and the first solar term of winter, which means winter is coming and crops harvested in autumn should be stored up.
Beginning of winter
In ancient times, the Chinese people took the Start of Winter to be the beginning of the winter. In fact, the Start of Winter is not the beginning of winter in terms of meteorology. The climate every year is different, so the beginning of winter could be quite different. And with the vast territory of China, winter in every area doesn’t begin at the same time.
Welcoming the winter in ancient times
The four beginnings of the seasons were important festivals in ancient times. Before the Start of Winter, an ancient emperor would take a shower and eat no more meat. On that day, the emperor would lead his officials to the suburbs and perform the ceremony of "welcoming the winter."
A legend has it that at the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD25-220), "Medical Saint" Zhang Zhongjing saved many people in Henan province from a typhoid epidemic and their ears from being frostbitten around Start of Winter.
He cooked mutton, hot peppers and herbs to dispel the cold and increase body heat. He wrapped these ingredients into a dough skin and made them into an ear shape. Since then, people have learned to make the food, which became known as a "dumpling". Today there is still a saying that goes "Eat dumplings on Start of Winter Day or your ears will be frostbitten".