For the Western / Paganism wheel of the year, this is a mid-winter festival that is extremely important.
People in the past were not certain if they would certainly survive Winter - coldness, lack of food, diseases etc. So they held a feast in celebration of passing mid-winter, having come thus far, and enduring through the remaining wintry days.
It is also known as Yule, when the return of the God of Light is celebrated with mistletoe, Yule Logs and lights (candles), a symbol of the everlasting Goddess. Even though it was still dark and deep in Winter, the lkight and life are returning to the world.
These days, people celebrate it to welcome the coming of Winter itself.
For the Chinese, it is better known as 冬至 (Dongzhi), a winter festival. Ironically, even though it is a Chinese festival at that, it usually falls on 22nd December every year, without fail. Celebrating the balance and harmony of the yin and yang elements of the cosmos, since there will be an increase in longer daylight hours, increasing the "positive" energies.
Traditionally, it is a time for families to gather together, celebrating the reunion, eating together, and reminding each other to be better behaved since everyone has grown a year older now.
The Chinese families - especially those with older generations and are of the Buddhism / Taoism religions, usually prepare a feast inclusive of chicken, soup, roasted meat (pork), prawns, fish, etc so that the family can dine together to celebrate this occasion.
Also, while people in some other countries (i.e. Northern China or Taiwanese) eat dumplings and layered cakes as well, on this special day - the Must-Have is glutinuous rice balls better known in Chinese as "tangyuan". These are small glutinuous rice balls - may be eaten plain or stuffed with ground peanuts, red bean paste or ground sesame seeds. They're cooked in ginger or brown-sugar soups - these days some people eat them with ice creams or soya bean drinks as well. The sticky, chewy glutinuous rice balls are sweet, and filling.
When I was younger, we used to help our mother roll the balls using glutinuous rice flour purchased from the markets. She would set aside a portion for us to play with, like dough - and we would make snowmen, Santa, reindeer and other figurines to be placed under the Christmas trees. The flour came in white, red or pale green shades.
These days, glutinuous rice balls are purchased conveniently at the supermarts, in all sorts of flavors and available anytime of the year.
Anyway, to those of you who are out there, Happy Winter Solstice / Dongzhi 冬至 again. Whether you are at home, outside or overseas, enjoy this special day of feasting, celebrating and welcoming of the God of Light!