Summer starts today!
Did you know that, according to the Chinese lunar calendar, summer starts today? Yes! Today is 立夏 lixia, the beginning of summer and one of the 24 solar terms in which the ancient Chinese divided the year. And why is it precisely today? Because today the sun’s rays reach Earth at a 45 degree angle. Actually, lixia is not just one day, but a period that starts today and will finish on May 21st this year. Temperatures will start raising, frogs will start croaking and watermelon season will be in full force before we even notice!
There are several customs related to this day, but in the Suzhou area the main one seems to be putting a hard boiled egg inside a string bag and hanging it from children’s necks. I asked the reason behind it and I was told the following legend: There was an evil god who was also very lazy and only worked on lixia doing bad things to children. Nüwa (the mother goddess in Chinese mythology) devised a plan to avoid it and told all human children to hang boiled eggs from their necks. Then she told the evil god that the children who had the egg “necklaces” were her children and he was not allowed to harm them. As all the children had eggs, the evil god could not harm any of them! I’m not sure this legend is very widespread though, as when I tried to search online about this custom, most of the sites I found just said that hanging an egg from children’s chests can prevent them getting summer sicknesses.
There are other customs related to eggs, like “egg fighting”, in which children bump their boiled eggs and the one that breaks is the loser, and painting eggs, a little bit like Easter.
It is said that this custom comes from the Three Kingdoms period (220-180 BC) and there is a legend about an orphan prince being raised by the king of another kingdom and his protector who checked and weighed him once a year to see if he was being properly fed. As with the previous legend, nowadays people mostly just say that following this tradition will ensure a healthy body during the summer. My mother in law informed me this is also done in Suzhou and today we have to weigh Baby A.
The first day of the Chinese summer has not brought us heat as today is noticeably cooler than these past days, but at least we are having a rare day of good air! Maybe summer really is starting!