The traditional Chinese lunar calendar divides the year into 24 solar terms. Minor Cold (Chinese: 小寒), the 23rd solar term, begins this year on Jan 5 and ends on Jan 19.
During Minor Cold, most areas in China have entered the bitter cold stage of winter. The ground and rivers are frozen. The cold air from the north moves southward continuously.
Here are six things you should know about Minor Cold.
Although "Minor Cold" means less cold than the following solar term, "Major Cold", there is an old saying in China that goes, "The days of the Sanjiu period are the coldest days." "Sanjiu period" refers to the third nine-day period (the 19th-27th days) after the day of the Winter Solstice, which is in Minor Cold. Actually Minor Cold is normally the coldest period of winter. It is important to keep warm during this period.
Cuisines fit for Minor Cold
From the perspective of dietary health care, during Minor Cold people should eat some hot food to benefit the body and defend against the invasion of cold weather — hot foods like trout, pepper, cinnamon, leeks, fennel and parsley. Now is the best time to have hot pot and braised mutton with soy sauce. But it is sensible to notice that too much spicy food may cause acute gastritis.
There is an old Chinese saying that goes, "Get exercise in the coldest days of winter." Generally, Minor Cold is the coldest period in China, which is the best time for exercising and improving one’s physique. To keep warm, the children of China have special games to play, such as hoop rolling and the cockfighting game.
In Tianjin, there is a custom to have huangyacai, a kind of Chinese cabbage, during Minor Cold. There are large amounts of Vitamins A and B in huangyacai. As huangyacai is fresh and tender, it is fit for frying, roasting and braising.
Eating glutinous rice
According to tradition, the Cantonese eat glutinous rice in the morning during Minor Cold. Cantonese people add some fried preserved pork, sausage and peanuts and mix them into the rice. According to the theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine, glutinous rice has the effect of tonifying the spleen and stomach in the cold season.
Eating vegetable rice
In ancient times, people in Nanjing took Minor Cold quite seriously, but as time went by, the celebration of Minor Cold gradually faded. However, the custom of eating vegetable rice is still followed today.
The rice is steamed and is unspeakably delicious. Among the ingredients, aijiaohuang (a kind of green vegetable), sausage and salted duck are the specialties in Nanjing.