What Do Chinese People Eat When New Seasons Are Coming?

There is an old saying in China: 民以食为天(mín yǐ shí wéi tiān)(Food is the first necessity of the people.; Food is god for the people. I prefer the latter translation). We think that we should eat different food during different seasons to obey the natural rules and make the body keep healthy. So we have some special food when a new season begins according to the lunar calendar.

For spring: 春卷(chūnjuǎn)
Chinese people eat 春卷(chūnjuǎn) on the day of 立春(lìchūn)(the beginning of the spring). In Chinese cuisine, spring rolls are savory rolls with cabbage and other vegetable fillings inside a wrapped cylinder shaped thin pastry. Fried spring rolls are generally small and crisp. They can be sweet or savory; the latter are typically prepared with vegetables. This version is fully wrapped before being pan-fried or deep-fried.


Non-fried spring rolls (or the so called spring pancakes) are typically bigger and more savory. In contrast, non-fried spring rolls typically fill the wrapping with pre-cooked ingredients.


For summer: 立夏蛋(lìxià dàn)
立夏(lìxià) means “the beginning of the summer” and 蛋(dàn) is “egg”, so 立夏蛋(lìxià dàn) is the egg that Chinese people eat on 立夏(lìxià). Normally the egg would be boiled (some people boil the egg with tea). Chinese people think that eating eggs on that day could make the body healthy. Some parents even knit a small bag for the egg so their kids can hang the egg around their neck. But this custom is not very popular now.


For autumn: 西瓜(xīguā)
According to traditional Chinese medical science, watermelon is cold, so when it’s getting to be cold with the beginning of autumn, eating watermelon would be unhealthy. So the day of 立秋(lìqiū)(the beginning of autumn) is the last day of this year that people should eat watermelon. (But I don’t obey this rule because I’m a fan of watermelon.)


There is another custom called 贴秋膘(tiēqiūbiāo) during the autumn. It will last for the entire autumn and the main purpose is just to make people gain enough weight and prepare for the coming winter. So the typical food of 贴秋膘(tiēqiūbiāo) is meat, meat, and meat. It is a good time to gain weight since you’ve got a good reason.

For winter: 饺子(jiǎozi)
Yes, dumplings are everywhere…Dumplings are indispensable during winter in north China, so it’s not weird that we eat dumplings to celebrate the coming of winter. Besides, dumplings were luxury food used to celebrate important festivals, now it’s a common dish but the habit has been kept until now (I guess it’s because dumplings are delicious :P).


What makes me feel sad is that I missed the day to eat spring roll this year T_T But the good thing is that it’s just the beginning of the year so I still have enough time and chances to enjoy other food. Is there any special food when celebrating a festival in your country? Leave a comment and let us know :)