Beginning of Winter
The Beginning of Winter (Lidong) falls on November 7 this year on the Gregorian calendar. Across China, the wind starts to grow colder and the days shorter, as winter is officially here. As fall fades away, crops that were once ripe just a few months ago have already been aired and stored in warehouses. Many animals hide in caves, the natural shelters where they hibernate. For humans, though hibernation is unnecessary, the Chinese people do have a tradition of eating a big meal on this day, which is called budong. Eating well can help to strengthen our body and adapt to the winter’s cold.
Around the beginning of winter, rainfall in most places of China decreases sharply. The forms of precipitation vary, changing from rain into snow, sleet, and even hail. With the strengthening of cold air masses, the temperature plummets. As many of the heaters in buildings run on a coal-fueled centralized furnace, the smog in northern China during the winter is still noticeable. Therefore, the country is facilitating the process of replacing coal with clean energies.
As the weather grows colder, the earth in northern China freezes and ice begins to form on the surface of lakes and rivers. Early in the morning, the dew that once appeared on crops has now turned to frost, creating a white blanket over the land. Meanwhile, in the south of the country, it’s time to sow seeds for winter crops such as winter wheat.
Orchids, plum blossoms, bamboo, and chrysanthemums are nicknamed the “four gentlemen” in Chinese culture. Orchids are a shade loving plant and prefer living in secluded places such as valleys and away from the hustle and bustle. Just like a modest, self-disciplined gentleman, it never shows off its long green leaves and beautiful flowers.
Also, as many fruit trees stop growing in winter, this is the time for farmers to give them a “haircut,” which means to prune withered, excessive, or insect-plagued branches. Doing this allows the tree branches more space to get enough sunshine and ventilation, and also, for nutrients to flow evenly to each branch. These “haircuts” are done every year at the beginning of winter and although creating the image of a skeleton tree, they are actually very helpful for the tree when spring rolls around.