Translator: CKtalon Editor: CKtalon
“Early in the Zhou dynasty, the first day of the tenth lunar month was La Worship Day. On this day, grand worshipping activities were held. ‘Accounts of the Etiquette of the Month’ describes the rites required. Using hunted prey as items of sacrifice, the Emperor would sacrifice the offerings on the communal altar for the sun, moon, stars, and deities. In the palace, he would sacrifice offerings to ancestors going five generations back, while also showing appreciation to the farmers, and hand out new work-rest regimes. The ‘Odes of Bin, Seventh Month’ from the ‘Classic of Poetry’ mentions: ‘In the seventh month, the Fire Star passes the meridian;
In the ninth month, clothes are given out.’ This means that from the ninth month, the weather gradually turns cold. People should wear more clothes to resist the cold. Hence, the first day of the tenth lunar month was also known as Clothes Giving Day. Story has it that clothes were given out mostly in the ninth lunar month, but the exact date cannot be confirmed.
“The Tang dynasty proliferated this custom to the masses, and on this day, people sewed clothes to show their filial piety to their parents or to offer sacrifices to their ancestors.
“In the Song dynasty, they believed that the weather did not fully turn cold on the ninth month of the lunar calendar yet, and that it was a little too early. Therefore, this custom was pushed to the first day of the tenth lunar month. It was then passed down for generations up to this day.
“Of course, there are also stories of how Meng Jiangnü’s husband was sent to mend the Great Wall of China. Seeing that it was almost winter and that the weather was turning cold, Meng Jiangnü traveled great distances to deliver winter clothing. But by the time she arrived, her husband had already died from fatigue. In her grief, she cried on the Great Wall, touching the heavens. This resulted in the wall collapsing, and it exposed her husband’s remains.
“Meng Jiangnü wore the clothes for her husband, so that he could be resistant to the cold in the underworld. People later called this day ‘Sending Winter Clothes Day.’
“Of course, this is just one of the many legends. With many stories, each area having their own, the details aren’t that important. What is important is that this day became a festival during which filial piety stands front and center. It’s to promote a culture of filial piety.
“Winter Clothes Day is also called First of the Tenth Month, Underworld Day, Clothes Burning Day, etc. Although Winter Clothes Day is listed as one of the four ghost festival days, it’s different from the other days. On this day, joint burials, the moving of graves, burning of paper money, and other rites are executed. On Winter Clothes Day, people burn winter clothes for the dead. Women take out the woolen clothes they have sown and let their family try them on, while men arrange the fireplace and clean out the furnace and chimneys to ensure that they can stay warm after winter falls.
“However, with the progress of time, the traditional festivals are gradually starting to be ignored. Many people have already forgotten the existence of Winter Clothes Day…”
Having said this, Fangzheng sighed wistfully. He had always felt stumped about the matter. Chinese culture was extensive and profound. The four cardinal virtues—humanity, justice, propriety, and wisdom—could be seen in all the traditional festivals and customs. This was an extremely good thing, so why was it marginalized in the present day? Could it truly be due to the government’s objection of feudal superstition and the promotion of scientific culture? Then why was Halloween becoming a day of celebration in foreign countries? It didn’t make sense!
With this in mind, Fangzheng thought of the Spring Festival. He remembered going into the city with his master, but cities were first prohibited from setting off firecrackers, and secondly, there had been no signs of children playing. Some families hadn’t even stayed up through the night or had a family reunion dinner. The feeling had been like it was no different from any usual day. It was even so that since many people had left the cities to return to the countryside to spend the holidays back home, it resulted in massive cities feeling empty, with almost no one on the streets. In an estate with tall buildings, only a few households had their lights on. That atmosphere… had felt more like a real ghost festival to Fangzheng!
As such, Fangzheng still had a deep sense of repulsion towards cities even up to this day. He didn’t like the lack of an atmosphere or the coldness of cities. That feeling only made him find winter even colder! Instead, a village was much more lively. Every family had all its members gathered as they visited their friends and neighbors, while kids walked around with lanterns and set off firecrackers. That was the feeling of a new year.
Of course, in the past two years, with young people leaving the villages, villages had also turned desolate. Thanks to One Finger Monastery, though, One Finger Village had managed to regather its popularity and turn lively again.
Unknowingly, Fangzheng’s mind had wandered off topic. He only snapped back to his senses when Red Boy shouted out to him.
“Uh, Jingxin, what did you just say?” Fangzheng asked.
Red Boy said in exasperation, “Master, what was on your mind just now? I just wanted to ask you how Winter Clothes Day is celebrated.”
Fangzheng was taken aback before he laughed. “It’s also a day to commemorate our ancestors. The main thing about the festival is that the weather is cold, so clothes need to be burned for our ancestors to let them enjoy a warm winter.”
“Master, I have a question!” Squirrel raised his paw and shouted.
Red Boy shot a glance at Squirrel and said with a chuckle, “Are you going to ask what’s good to eat on Winter Clothes Day?”
Squirrel opened his mouth and rubbed his belly…
Salted Fish said impatiently, “If you have a question, ask it!”
Squirrel lowered his paw and said, “Uh, Junior Brother Jingxin has asked the question for me.”
Salted Fish: “…”
Fangzheng shook his head in exasperation The little guy really only had food on his mind! However, Fangzheng thought for a moment and actually, Winter Clothes Day did seem to have some special delicacies! Fangzheng smiled. “There is indeed food to eat, but it’s not Winter Clothes Day today. You have to wake up early tomorrow!”
Upon hearing that there would be good food to eat, Squirrel jumped up in excitement. The other guys also turned excited.
Fangzheng shook his head when he saw this scene. They were really a bunch of little bastards!
Salted Fish curled his lips and said, “Humph. So much for the talk about filial piety and paying respects to ancestors. In the end, isn’t it all for the food?”
Fangzheng frowned when he heard that. Such thoughts were not to be encouraged! Therefore, he rapped the table, making everyone fall silent. Fangzheng said, “The masses regard food as their prime need. Eating in and of itself isn’t problematic. Only greed is an original sin. As for eating something special on the day of a festival, there are multiple reasons for it. It’s not just to satisfy the pleasure of the mouth and stomach.”
Salted Fish was unconvinced as he said, “Why do I feel like that just sounds like an excuse a bunch of people use so that they can eat and be merry?”
Fangzheng rolled his eyes at the fish for he had heard such claims before already. There was once a professor expert who claimed that the Chinese enjoyed celebrating festivals not because of the festivals themselves, but solely because they were a reason to spend money, rejoice, and have fun! Supposedly that was why the Chinese had a penchant for festivals.
Back when Fangzheng read the article, his first thought was to find a brick and smack the idiot to death!
China had a five thousand years history of civilization, but the way he had put it, it had turned into a culture of foodaholics, a culture of fools!
With this in mind, Fangzheng said, “In the Dafeng district of the Jiangsu province, there is a legend. The general story goes that a shepherd boy once revolted against his landlord and ended up being slashed to death by him. The blood splashed to the ground, turning the rice red. That day was the first day of the tenth lunar month. After that, the poor would eat red bean rice to commemorate him. There is a children’s folk rhyme that talks about this: ‘First of the tenth month, the shepherd boy runs home; beating and death awaits him if he stays.’ Tell me, is that tradition there solely for the sake of eating?”
Salted Fish’s mouth turned agape. “It seems… That is not the case. But you are only talking about one area. That cannot be generalized, can it?”